Cavs’ quarterback shines in opening-night win
LAGRANGE – As far as Callaway’s Dylan Johnson is concerned, one of the MVPs of Friday’s win over LaGrange was athletic trainer Brooke Jackson.
In a preseason game against Northside, Johnson injured his hand, and while it wasn’t broken, there was plenty of doubt as to whether he’d be able to play quarterback in the season opener against LaGrange.
Throughout the week, Braylon Sanders took the snaps with the first-team offense, while Johnson rehabbed and tried to get his hand ready for Friday night.
Turns out, when the Callaway offense made its way onto the turf of Callaway Stadium, Johnson was indeed the man at quarterback, and he played well.
Johnson, a senior who has played parts of three seasons at quarterback, had a scoring run and two touchdown passes, and he helped Callaway beat LaGrange 37-6.
Johnson, who said his hand didn’t bother him at all during the game, added that it “was probably 30 minutes before the game started” when the decision was made to let him play.
Johnson said he worked closely with Jackson throughout the week to get ready to play.
“Coach Jackson did a really good job,” Johnson said. “She got me ready.”
Had Johnson been unable to go, Sanders would have played quarterback, and that’s a pretty good backup option.
Sanders began the 2015 season as the starting quarterback before he suffered an injury that kept him out for a month.
Sanders is also a standout receiver, and the Callaway coaches figure the offense is at its best when he is in at that position and Johnson is playing quarterback.
How dynamic that combination can be was on display early in the third quarter when Johnson threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Sanders.
“Even though I wasn’t able to practice all the week, the offense was out there working hard, and Braylon was running the show all week,” Johnson said. “They just let me step in tonight, and allowed me back in, and we played good together.”
Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins knew that Johnson would do whatever it took to get ready for Friday’s game.
“He’s a gamer, and he’s a tough kid,” Wiggins said. “He took a big shot down in Hogansville last week. His hand was swollen twice the size it should be. And he iced it all week, and coach Jackson did a great job getting him ready. He’s a tough kid and a great competitor, and I was really proud of his effort at quarterback.”
On Callaway’s first touchdown, Johnson showed that he wasn’t worried about taking contact.
On third down from the LaGrange 2-yard line, Johnson faked a handoff to DJ Atkins, and he kept the ball for a touchdown run.
Later in the first half, Johnson had a Brett Favre-type moment when he eluded a couple of tackle attempts and, as he was about to go down, flipped the ball out to tight end Michael Freeman, who raced down field for a 28-yard gain.
Then in the third quarter, Johnson was able to sit back in the pocket and heave the ball downfield to a wide-open Sanders for the touchdown.
“When you have Braylon out there, and you have an offensive line that gives you time to throw the ball, it goes hand in hand,” Johnson said.
In the fourth quarter, Johnson threw a screen pass to junior wide receiver DQ Wilkerson, who turned that into a 52-yard touchdown.
Johnson showed his value in the kicking game as well.
Johnson had two punts, and they both pinned LaGrange inside its own 10-yard line.
Johnson was also the holder on Noah Stephens’ field goal and his four extra points.
It was an impressive all-around performance for Johnson and his teammates, but he said the celebration was short-lived with nine regular-season games to go and the playoffs most likely to follow.
“It’s fun (beating LaGrange), but we’ll go back to work and get ready for next week,” Johnson said.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports