GRANITEVILLE-Midland Valley's Jamaal Johnson showed he does have big play ability. Unfortunately for the sophomore running back three of his longest runs were negated by penalties in the Mustangs' 21-0 victory over South Aiken Friday.
Johnson carried the ball down to the Thoroughbreds' 3-yard line on Midland Valley's first offensive play. A clipping penalty brought the ball back to the 41. Later in the same drive Johnson's 21-yard scamper was nullified by an illegal block.
The drive would end on an interception by South Aiken cornerback Andre Johnson in the end zone. Thoroughbred coach Clayton Chriswell said mental mistakes almost did them in.
"It's so frustrating getting those penalties. It works on your psyche," Chriswell said.
Midland Valley took a 6-0 lead into halftime as full back Travis Morgan bulled his way into the end zone from 11 yards out six seconds into the second quarter. Josh Waters missed the PAT. Johnson started the drive with his longest official run of the night, a 26-yarder putting the Mustangs at the Thoroughbreds 34-yard line.
Another clipping penalty wiped out a 29-yard run by Johnson with less than two minutes remaining in the half. All told, Johnson ate up 122-rushing yards in the first half. However, only 51 of those counted toward the 108 yards that will be in the record books.
Although South Aiken was beaten 299-122 in yardage, the Thoroughbreds hung tough through three quarters. The Mustangs got the big play they were looking for on their first drive of the final period.
Midland Valley started on their own seven-yard line. Three consecutive rushes by Johnson moved the ball to the 29. Then came the big play home crowd was waiting for.
Quarterback Marcus Edney took the keeper to the right side and ran untouched on his way to pay dirt. With 7:54 remaining in the game, Midland Valley had taken the wind out of the Mustang sail and a 14-0 lead.
Johnson admitted it was frustrating to see all of his long runs go for naught and Edney get the game-breaker but said winning is the top priority.
"It's all right. We're on the same team. I just want to win," Johnson said. "If we get the penalties down, we can win all of them (games)."
Edney said playing in the same backfield with Johnson gives him confidence to make things happen on his own when opponents key on Johnson.
"I have a positive attitude. It helps having him (Johnson) there," Edney said. The Mustang signal-caller was humble reflecting on his 71-yard touchdown run.
"Our defense was the key. They shut them (South Aiken) down," he said. "My run did help a little bit."
South Aiken coach Butch Nelson said Edney took advantage of his team focusing on Johnson.
"We knew he (Johnson) had that ability. We just attacked the back and turned the quarterback loose," Nelson said.