Every athlete competing in the 2010 Region Rumble All-Star Football Game on Saturday, June 19 at South County Secondary School had a chance to prove his abilities. But as the battle between the Northern and Northwest Regions went into overtime, Lake Braddock wide receiver said enough is enough.
"Me and [Hayfield’s] Antoine [McCallum] had been splitting time the whole game and I was getting a little bitter about it," Johnson said. "I told them, ‘Look, put me in in overtime, let me run the corner [route] and I’m going to score.’"
The Northern Region coaching staff — Johnson’s coaches from Lake Braddock — listened to the all-state wideout and let him run to the corner. The result: a 10-yard strike from quarterback Connor Reilly (Woodson) and the game-winning touchdown. After the Northwest Region kicked a field goal on the opening possession of the first overtime period, Reilly, on first down, found a diving Johnson for a 20-17 victory.
Reilly and Johnson were Patriot District opponents during the season, with Woodson and Lake Braddock splitting their two meetings. But on this night, the two formed a pass-and-catch combo that produced a pair of touchdowns — the second leading to a celebratory Northern Region dogpile near the corner of the end zone.
"We were big rivals during the season," Johnson said, "but going into the overtime, first down, I told him, ‘I’m going to get them on this corner [route] because that was my money all season long.’ … He threw a great pass and I just came down with it."
Reilly earned team offensive MVP honors, completing 21 of 43 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. The Temple University-bound signal caller said he knew immediately his throw to the corner was a game-winner.
"As soon as the safety turned his back," Reilly said, "it was wide open."
Johnson caught three passes for 35 yards and two touchdowns. His first score — a 15-yard reception — gave the North a 14-6 lead with 11:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Lake Braddock also had two starters on the offensive line — Penn State-bound tackle Khamrone Kolb and guard Jack Phillips. Bruins defensive lineman Keli Doe and receiver/defensive back Ali Banihashemi also saw playing time for the Northern Region and all-state defensive back Thomas Strickford and receiver Peres Nubong were also on the roster.
Lake Braddock and Northern Region head coach Jim Poythress said it felt good to see one of his Bruins score the game-winning touchdown, adding a good-natured jab, as well.
"Those guys need to graduate," Poythress said. "My kids need to graduate. I’ve seen enough of them. They’re all good boys but they need to graduate."
West Springfield’s T.J. O’Connell caught seven passes for 85 yards. West Springfield linemen Maurice McKinney, Henry Dodge and James Lee, and receiver Daniel Collins were also on the roster.
Woodson linebackers Josh Hogan, an all-state selection, and James Johnson saw playing time for the Northern Region. Cavalier defensive backs Colin Dempsey and Charles Basil and running back/linebacker Bertrand Ngampa were also on the roster.
The host team, South County, had three players on the roster — defensive backs Andre Simmons and Alhaji Koroma and lineman Anthony Carabali.
The game was a defensive struggle for the most part as the teams combined for seven turnovers. Each team finished with less than 40 yards on the ground, due in part to players having only one week to practice with one another. Defenses were hitting hard and emotions were running hot.
"There was a lot of chatter between the two sides," North starting left tackle Matt Cunningham (West Potomac) said. "We were definitely talking to each other. It was getting pretty intense."
The Northern Region took a 7-0 lead when Reilly connected with Edison wide receiver Christian Washington for a 21-yard touchdown with 3:24 to play in the first half. The Northwest Region responded on its ensuing possession with an eight-play, 67-yard drive that used only 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Quarterback Bo Revell (Battlefield) ended the march with a 3-yard touchdown keeper, but the Northwest continued to trail as Woodson’s Johnson blocked the extra point.
The Northern Region extended its lead to 14-6 when Reilly found Johnson in the end zone with 11:53 to play in the fourth quarter. The Northwest Region drove deep into North territory minutes later, but was turned away when North cornerback Kentdrick Barnes (T.C. Williams) tackled receiver Christian Ocasto (Potomac) at the 5 on fourth-and-goal.
A 21-yard punt on the North’s ensuing possession set up the Northwest at the North 32-yard line. After Revell was sacked by the North’s Andrew Embree (Madison) on first down, Revell launched a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jared Johnson (Forest Park) with 6:54 remaining in the fourth. Thomas Keith (Osbourn) lined up at quarterback and scored on a keeper during the ensuing two-point conversion attempt to tie the game at 14.
Yorktown safety C.J. Bartholomew earned team defensive MVP honors, snagging a pair of interceptions. The Northern Region Defensive Player of the Year also handed kicking duties, connecting on a pair of extra points.
"When I got out on the field I was like, ‘I’m with the best players in the region, I’ve got to prove myself right here,’" Bartholomew said. "Honestly, I just came out with a sense of emotion where I’ve just got to be the best player I can be and prove myself in front of all the best players."