PIAA football notebook: Johnson’s stock rises for Jeannette
Thursday, November 30, 2017 | 6:15 PM
Jeannette knew Anthony Johnson could be a force on defense — as soon as he learned how to play with some control and technique.
Raw and unpolished, Johnson was persuaded to play football this season at Jeannette, his fourth school in three years.
“I'm glad I did,” he said. “We're champs.”
Johnson already had shown some talent in basketball, but once football coaches and players unlocked his passion for a sport he hadn't played since middle school, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior took off.
Football wasn't some labor-intensive endeavor. From the start, Johnson loved it.
He studied. He practiced. He cracked pads.
Now an unrestrained free spirit at defensive end, Johnson has rushed quarterbacks and wrangled ball carriers to the tune of a team-high 118 tackles, including 27 for losses.
He has 4 1⁄2 sacks as he gets set to lead the Jayhawks (13-1) into Friday night's PIAA Class A semifinals.
College coaches have taken notice of the run-stopping Johnson, who plays with high levels of energy and emotion.
He expends so much stamina, coaches say, that he needs to rest, which is why he does not play offense.
Johnson begs to differ, but plays on nonetheless.
Pitt has contacted Jeannette about Johnson and appears more than mildly interested.
“He just never stops,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “He has gotten better with his technique and discipline. He is a Division I prospect.”
Johnson, who had 8 1⁄2 tackles in the WPIAL Class A championship win over Imani Christian, took an unofficial visit to Pitt earlier this season. He attended the N.C. State game at Heinz Field.
“Hopefully, I get that offer,” Johnson said.
West Virginia and Toledo also have inquired.
Johnson also is getting recruited in basketball.
“It's a blessing,” he said. “It's never a negative. Basketball is coming up, and I'll be ready. But whatever sport can get me into college, that's the way I am going.”
Perhaps one of the reasons Johnson is thriving, aside from his athleticism and feistiness, is his connection with the team.
He attended Chartiers Valley, Lincoln Park and Allderdice before arriving at Jeannette.
“I have bounced around,” he said. “At Jeannette, it's a family environment. At the other places, I always felt like the new kid all the time. Here, I feel accepted, and I love my teammates.”
Jeannette sophomore linebacker Justin Cramer likely will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Cramer said he has a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. He visited renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Bradley, and was advised to rest the injury.
Cramer, a 6-foot, 190-pound linebacker, also is a good wrestler and is considering playing baseball in the spring. He led Jeannette in tackles as a freshman.
Farrell was a WPIAL school for decades until 2006. The Steelers won six WPIAL championships before becoming a perennial power in District 10.
Despite the longevity in the WPIAL, Farrell has only faced Jeannette once, in the 1980 Class AA quarterfinals. The Steelers won 13-7.
The teams often were in different classifications. Jeannette played up for years but finally chose to play in Class A a few years ago.
Two other WPIAL teams will face former district schools that also moved to District 10. Washington plays Wilmington in the Class 2A semifinals and Quaker Valley faces Sharon in the 3A semis.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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