Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 9:38am
Football 2013: Step one complete, Knights continuing to build
By Morgan Lee Editor
JOHNSON: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Columbia Blue, Navy and White
CURRENT REGION: 8-AAAA (playing non-region schedule)
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Jason Roquemore, second season, 6-4
2012 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 6-4
KEY LOSSES: RB Cedric Harris, QB Paul Barker, OL John Averils, OL Lyrick Bright, OL Mason Borders, LB Jose Martinez, LB A.J. Millwood
OFFENSIVE STYLE: triple option -- While the Knights are breaking in a new QB, a deep group of running backs should help to make up for the loss of Harris. The offensive line should also be strong.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. RB Luis Hernandez, Sr. RB Kendrick Smith, So. RB Orion Pittman, Sr. WR Malachi Mills, Sr. WE Jamison Owen
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-4 -- Johnson's will be anchored by a strong defensive line and secondary; the linebacker corps will be inexperienced.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. NG Steve Rodriguez, Jr. DL Jesse Griggs, Sr. DB Luis Hernandez, Sr. DB Kendrick Smith, So DB Orion Pittman
SPECIAL TEAMS: So. P/PK Isaac Henry; punting duties undecided as of publication time
STRENGTH: Line of scrimmage -- Johnson may not be as big up front this season, but the Knights' linemen will be able to work quicker and more naturally after a full year learning the triple option.
QUESTION: Game experience -- There are new faces in key positions this season including linebacker and quarterback.
KEY GAMES: Johnson opens with traditional rival West Hall, a week before most programs are underway. Last year's "Battle of Oakwood" went down to the wire -- as have many installations of the rivalry. Playing host to North Hall on Sept. 6 should prove a stern test, while midseason contests against East Hall (Sept. 20) and Chestatee (Oct. 4), sandwiched around a bye, will also provide plenty of excitement.
TRENDING: The Knights took some huge steps in 2012, putting together the program's first winning season since 2004. The campaign pumped plenty of confidence into Johnson football -- though coach Jason Roquemore says his team must continue to improve as it hopes to return to a region schedule in the near future.
Aug. 23 at West Hall
Aug. 30 at Oglethorpe County
Sept. 6 vs. North Hall
Sept. 13 at North Murray
Sept. 20 vs. East Hall
Oct. 4 vs. Chestatee
Oct. 11 vs. Clarkston
Oct. 18 at Druid Hills (Adams Stadium)
Oct. 25 vs. Pickens
Nov. 8 vs. Region 7-AAAA TBA
OAKWOOD -- There is an enthusiasm and sense of anticipation surrounding Johnson football these days.
In recent seasons that wasn't necessarily the case.
The arrival of coach Jason Roquemore allied with an admirable work ethic from Knights players to re-invigorate the program in 2012, as Johnson bounced back from a winless 2011 to post a 6-4 record.
Roquemore says they have only scratched the surface, however.
"I'm not satisfied with 6-4; that's not the only direction we want to go; we want bigger things too," Roquemore said. "The kids are eager to try and improve and raise the bar. There's a lot of excitement here now, and anytime you can tap into that great things are on the horizon."
Certainly that horizon includes a return to region play, and Roquemore feels his Knights could have competed within a region last season (they would be slated for 8-AAAA).
The here and now finds Johnson with a young team that is actually more experienced than last year's group -- who only got to start working Roquemore weeks before the season started in June. The Knights feature three more seniors on the roster in 2013 -- up from just 11 last season. Yet that small but determined group included plenty of standouts, including explosive running back Cedric Harris.
"We only had 11 seniors last year, but they played like 22 seniors because of how much they gave to us," Roquemore said. "We're going to be a young football team. I'm anxious to see how that will run its course. We play in some tough places this year. And I'm looking forward to see how these kids are going to grow and mature."
One area where plenty of growth has already taken place is along the lines of scrimmage, where linemen have adjusted to the techniques of playing within Johnson's triple option attack -- which could be a key despite the graduation of some imposing size from 2012.
"Up front, we're not going to be as big, but we were sloppy at times last year," Roquemore said. "Our big thing is playing fast. Last year our kids did a lot of thinking and when you're thinking, you're playing slow. That was a focus in offseason -- and our weight room. That's got to be the foundation of program."
Johnson's defensive line should also be a strength, anchored by noseguards Steve Rodriguez and Jesse Griggs. The Knights secondary is also experienced, with seniors Luis Hernandez and Kendrick Smith aided by sophomore Orion Pittman.
The biggest question on defense is linebacker, where three of the four starters in Johnson's 3-4 base will be inexperienced.
"The guys we have have a chance to be pretty good if they can keep progressing," Roquemore said.
Similarly there is young talent at the quarterback position, where three players -- junior Kavin Hobbes, junior Chase Sims and freshman Josh Henderson -- are battling for the starting spot. Whoever earns the position will be aided by two athletic receivers in seniors Malachi Mills and Jamison Owen, as well as a solid group of running backs that earned playing time last season -- including Hernandez and Smith -- and are eager to replace the graduated standout Harris.
"You can't replace a Cedric; he was a special player, but if we can execute, we believe we can be just as successful," Roquemore said. " We're young, we're and going to make mistakes, and that's fine, but we can't make same one twice. The great thing is these kids are so coachable and so eager to please. They want to be great.
"Outside of my son being here is the highlight of my day. I wake up and I can't wait to get here. We've got a great school, and our community has come out of woodwork and we've drawn strength from that. It's a very exciting and positive time to be at Johnson. Those days of us just trying to survive are over, and that good. There's expectations now."
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