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story.lead_photo.caption Submitted photo Prairie Grove senior Anthony Johnson (center) signs a national letter of intent to play college football for Hendrix College, of Conway, on Monday, April 23. Johnson was accompanied by his mother, Andrea Harrell (right) and Prairie Grove head football coach Danny Abshier. Johnson earned All-State and All-Conference honors leading the Tigers in rushing as a senior.

By Mark Humphrey

ENTERPRISE-LEADER

PRAIRIE GROVE -- With the stroke of a pen Prairie Grove senior Anthony Johnson placed his signature on a storybook high school football career filled with highlights.

The latest of which was signing a national letter of intent to play college football for Hendrix College, of Conway, on Monday, April 23.

Johnson earned All-State and All-Conference honors, leading the Tigers in rushing as a senior. His senior class of 2018 finished with the most varsity wins in school history. As sophomores they contributed to a State Runner-up finish, then as juniors were heavily involved in reaching the state semifinals, and as seniors advanced to the state quarterfinals.

"The guy had a 10-yard-per carry average," said Prairie Grove head coach Danny Abshier. "He was our leading rusher. He's one of the most exciting players we've ever had, defensively, because he hits so hard and offensively to watch him run. He's one of the most exciting players we've had in a long time."

Offensive Firepower

Johnson's reliability as a halfback illustrated by one fumble in 167 carries showcased throughout the season. He rushed for 1,681 yards, gaining 10.1 yards per rush and ran for 21 touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions with a long carry of 70 yards.

"He's super hard to tackle, it's very tough for one person to get him down," said Prairie Grove assistant coach John Elder. "I'm excited for him to go on and play at the next level."

The 5-9, 190 Johnson also caught 13 passes for 178 yards with a long of 42 yards. His average catch went for 13.7 yards and he had 1 receiving touchdown.

"He's big enough to run you over after he catches it," Elder said. "He has good hands, he's a skilled player."

Defensive Flexibility

Johnson exemplifies the type of athlete suited to play the hybrid safety/linebacker position in Prairie Grove's 4-2-5 scheme according to defensive coordinator Craig Laird.

"He really had the whole package," Laird said. "He had it all. He had the football IQ, he loved to hit, he could tackle, he could cover."

Laird explained a lot of times a player can run, but does not tackle well. Other players can tackle, but don't run well. Some players are a little bit of both but don't excel at either skill because they lack the football IQ and don't fully comprehend the game.

Opponents feared Johnson as a heavy hitter on defense. He was the Tigers' second-leading tackler with 26 solos and 66 assists for 92 total takedowns on the season. Johnson had 1 interception, 3 passes defensed and a force fumble.

During spring practice, Laird told the team, "This is the Anthony Johnson position."

"This is the toughest position on the field defensively by the nature of our 4-2-5 defense," Laird said. "You have to play. You're put in a tough spot. You have to be back to cover passes and you have to run downhill to stop the run."

For lack of a better term, Laird said weak safety is what people call the position.

"You're not just an old school safety, you're a linebacker," Laird said. "This year, we were real fortunate and real blessed to have him out there on defense as much as he was. You could tell when he wasn't out there. Our defense dropped off a little bit when he wasn't out there."

Sports on 05/16/2018

Print Headline: Anthony Johnson's Signature Caps Outstanding Career

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