Jeannette’s Johnson aims for dominating encore season

Monday, July 9, 2018 | 7:09 PM

It stands to reason Jeannette’s Anthony Johnson could have a dominating encore season for the Jayhawks, the returning WPIAL and PIAA champions in Class A.

Especially now that he has the hang of this football thing.

This is the same kid who needed some nudging to come out for the team last summer. But all parties involved are sure glad he did. Johnson went on to become a scene-stealing tackler for a take-your-lunch defense.

“To be honest, no I’m not surprised at all (by last season),” said Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound, strongside defensive end who attacked quarterbacks and ball carriers with all the delicacy of an agitated Tasmanian devil, zero to 100 every play while trying to get ahead of every whistle. “I always knew that I was physical and knew that I would love to hit.

“I’m surprised on what position I ended up at, but now I love it.”

Johnson, who had 12 sacks for a unit that also saw defensive back Robert Kennedy snag 12 interceptions, didn’t play a single down of offense for the Jayhawks, a strong contender to repeat.

While the one-side-only approach is unique for Class A and a testament to Jeannette’s depth and athleticism, that could change this year. Johnson, however, has not been part of the team’s seven-on-seven unit so far this summer.

Coach Roy Hall hinted recently that Johnson could be on the path to becoming a pass-catching tight end. Resting him worked well, however, because he went full speed every down on defense and could take a break.

“He needed to rest,” Hall said. “It’s just the way he plays.”

Johnson, who attended three other schools before arriving at Jeannette, plans to embrace whatever role he plays — and continue his climb to Division I football.

“I have a lot to prove personally,” Johnson said. “I feel that I’m a totally different player than I was last year.

“My role is to lead everybody, from the first guy to the last (and) make sure everybody has bought into it. I wanted (to play seven on seven), but that’s the coaches’ decision. I go play where I’m told.”

Johnson’s stock has blown up in recent months. He has a dozen Division I offers, Syracuse and Central Michigan among them, and appears to have more than lukewarm interest from Penn State, Michigan State, Pitt and other larger programs.

His work ethic is second to none,” Jeannette defensive line coach Trevor Petrillo said. “He wants to be great. Every rep is full speed. His will to win is unbelievable; the local schools better jump on the bandwagon.”

And what about the team’s expectations regarding its own encore?

“For the team,” Johnson said, “it’s state or bust.”

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