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franklin county times

Russellville wary of J.O. Johnson's speed

By Staff
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
Speed.
It's the ultimate weapon in the football universe.
With superior speed, almost anything is possible. At least that's what the J.O. Johnson Jaguars are counting on as they hope to repeat history and pull off an upset of top-ranked Russellville tonight at Milton Frank Stadium.
Coach Harold Wells' Johnson squad is loaded with speed at the skill positions, and Russellville coach Perry Swindall said his team must find a way to contain that speed if they hope to extend their winning streak in region play to a staggering 38 games.
"They are fast and explosive. That's our biggest concern," said Swindall, whose Russellville squad fell victim to a 20-15 upset at Johnson in 2000. "They pretty much do whatever they want as far as athletic ability goes. The monkey is on our back again defensively, because most of their speed is at running back, wide receiver and the quarterback position.
"They moved the ball against everybody they've played, and they're 3-0. They're kind of hoping to ambush us again at Milton Frank Stadium, so we've got to go over there and be prepared to play really well."
The Golden Tigers (3-0, 2-0 Class 5A, Region 8) witnessed the Jaguars' speed and athleticism first-hand last November, when Johnson ran wild for 299 rushing yards and 406 total yards of offense in a first-round playoff game at Russellville.
The Golden Tigers broke open a close game with three fourth-quarter touchdowns and advanced with a 48-20 win, but the Jaguars have returned their team virtually intact and are anxious for another shot.
Swindall said his team's defense must play aggressive yet disciplined football tonight to avoid a repeat of Week 1, when the Golden Tigers surrendered three touchdowns of at least 60 yards in a 28-20 win over Deshler.
"The first thing we have to do defensively is get lined up right," he said. "Secondly, we have to do a good job of gang-tackling. If there's just one guy making the tackle and he misses it, it could be a touchdown. The margin for error is very small against a team with their speed. All they need is one step, and they're gone."
The Jaguars may even have an extra bounce in their step tonight after cracking the AWSA Class 5A poll at No. 9 this week on the heels of last Friday's 13-8 upset of Decatur.
Johnson cornerback Sergio Gray returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and the Jaguars stopped a last-minute drive by Decatur at their own 6-yard line to preserve the win.
"We're hoping it's a good thing from our standpoint," Swindall said. "Johnson played a really good game last week, so we're hoping maybe they won't play quite as well this week."
The Golden Tigers are also coming off a big win, having beaten region rival Hartselle 45-21 last Friday.
Swindall said his players have too much respect for Johnson to experience a letdown this week.
"Nothing against Hartselle, but our kids know that beating Hartselle is not the biggest game of our season," he said. "We've played in the big games, and I'd like to think our kids know how to handle a win like that.
"We don't want to overemphasize or underemphasize any games. We look at it like this: The Hartselle game was a region game we needed to win, and the Johnson game is another region game we need to win."

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