Westmoreland football Q&A with Mt. Pleasant’s Jake Johnson

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019 | 5:03 PM


Teetering between a potential playoff berth and an early end to the season can be like purgatory for WPIAL teams.

It’s a week-to-week waiting game as the season crawls to a finish.

The only way they can impact their fate — and avoid potential tiebreakers and the dreaded Gardner Points — is to “take care of business,” as Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas said.

With senior running back Jake Johnson leading the way, Mt. Pleasant has as good a shot as anyone in the WPIAL Class 3A Big East of reaching the postseason. None of the teams in conference has clinched.

“When you have a real dynamic kid like Jake, you want to get the ball in playmakers’ hands,” Fazekas said. “He needs to touch the ball as many times as he can.”

Mt. Pleasant (3-4, 2-3) has missed the playoffs the last two years — following a streak of eight consecutive years in the tournament — but is in position to return. The Vikings visit Elizabeth Forward (4-2, 3-2) on Friday night.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Johnson has become one of the top big-play gamers in Class 3A. He has rushed for 747 yards and nine touchdowns and has 15 receptions for 291 yards and four TDs.

The converted wide receiver also has a pair of interceptions as a shutdown cornerback.

In last week’s 34-18 win over Burrell, “J.J.” ran for career-high 201 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries — 196 yards after halftime.

Johnson is the subject of this week’s Westmoreland Q&A:

Are you a verbal leader?

No, I am more of a lead-by-example guy. If they’re messing around, I’ll say something, but that’s about it.

Why have you been so effective running the ball?

My line has blocked so well and has made it easy for me.

Do you plan to take your linemen out for dinner?

If we make the playoffs, I’ll take them to Dino’s. They’ll eat over 100 wings easily.

Who will eat the most?

Probably Jonathan Majercak (6-6, 305).

Do sports run your family?

My dad (Bill) played basketball and football. My brothers, Ty and Matt, played basketball. I was the first (brother) to play football — in third grade.

What would it mean for Mt. Pleasant to make the playoffs?

It would be awesome to be on the team that turned it around and took us in the right direction for the future.

How tight are those conference standings? Six teams with at least three conference wins.

We’re all right there. There isn’t one team that is out in front, way better than everyone else. I think we can pull it out at the end.

What is your favorite highlight so far this season?

We were tied up with Yough, 14-14, and I caught a 50-something-yard touchdown. We scored 28 points in the third quarter. It was a wide receiver screen.

You’re also one of the top basketball scorers in Westmoreland County. What sport do you want to play in college?

I have some Division III interest (in both sports). Whichever is the better opportunity.

Who is your favorite pro athlete?

Dwyane Wade. Always has been.

Have you met a famous person?

Kind of. I met Lamar Patterson (of Pitt basketball) when I was like 10. I won a contest to be a ball boy for a game. Pitt-Wake Forest. I won a drawing at Dick’s.

What is your favorite pregame meal?

My mom’s lasagna.

What movie do you never get tired of watching?

“The Waterboy.”

Any off-the-field hobbies?

I like to water ski. We have a camp at Deep Creek (Md.). It’s fun, but I had a couple face-plants at first.

Why do you wear No. 4?

No. 12 is my favorite number. I wear that in basketball. No. 4 is my second-favorite number.

What was the last concert you went to?

Hootie and the Blowfish.

What sport are you secretly good at?

Baseball. I used to play soccer. Maybe volleyball, too.

What did you think of the hit on Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph?

I got scared. That was insane how he passed out.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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