Auburn, Ala.—Madison Academy fell in the 2011 state title game to Handley and the Mustangs came back for revenge Thursday in the 3A title game at Jordan-Hare Stadium behind the play of sophomore running back Kerryon Johnson and freshman Malik Miller. Johnson carried the ball 25 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns and added a pair of interceptions on defense, including a 68 yard return for a score, as the Mustangs ran by Fayette County 31-7.
“It’s unbelievable,” Johnson said. “Last year, losing like that, we just pushed ourselves harder than ever this year. It just shows that hard work pays off. I’m still in shock. I can barely believe it after last year’s finish. I’m just excited.”
While Johnson was slicing and dicing the Fayette County defense, Miller was pounding the football with 14 carries for 121 yards and a score. He also added eight tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble on defense for the Mustangs as they held Fayette County to just 140 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers.
The duo have been front and center for Madison Academy Coach Eric Cohu for the entire season as the Mustangs and Johnson have been on everyone’s radar after falling in the title game last year. He said that Johnson’s play has been steady all season long despite teams focusing on him from the start of 2012.
“Last year’s playoff run Kerryon Johnson made a name for himself all over the country,” Cohu said. “I’ve got everyone all over the country recruiting him. I think he learned a lesson this year about what it’s like to have a target on him from the preseason all the way to the state championship.
“This year he’s had a target and still had some of his best games in our biggest games,” he added. “If we’re winning big we don’t run him. Some of his lowest games are some of our biggest wins. He’s done an outstanding job of learning what it’s like to have everyone after him.”
The first half was one of dominance for Madison Academy and Johnson was much of the reason why. On the first drive of the game for the Mustangs the sophomore carried the ball three consecutive times for 20 total yards to give a glimpse of the gameplan for the day. Eventually Madison Academy’s drive stalled at the 26 before Chandler Trach boomed a 43-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
That’s how things would stay until early in the second quarter when Johnson put the Mustangs on his back once again. Carrying the ball six times to move Madison Academy to the Fayette County 35, Johnson broke loose from the pack on fourth and one to race into the endzone and give his team a 10-0 lead with just under nine minutes left in the first half.
Looking to get back in the game, Fayette County drove the ball from its own 24 to midfield where it faced a third and 10 situation. Lying in wait from his safety position, Johnson tracked down a throw from quarterback Marcell Redmond across the field and picked it off for his first interception of the game. With nothing but green grass in front of him the speedy Johnson cruised in for his second score of the game and a 17-0 lead.
Trying to stay in the game, Fayette County put together a much needed drive to end the first half as the Tigers marched 67 yards on 13 plays before Redmond scored from two yards out. Fayette County converted two fourth down tries on the drive, the second a 15-yard pass from Redmond to JaTevin Madison that moved the ball to the Madison Academy 19, before pushing it across for the score.
Defense was the story early in the second half as Johnson intercepted his second pass of the game on the first drive from Fayette County, but a Miller fumble gave the ball right back to the Tigers in good field position. A hold on defense by Madison Academy got the ball back for the Mustangs with just over three minutes left in the third quarter, but Will Redmond picked off a Blake Coward pass to give the ball right back to the Tigers near midfield and still down by 10.
Things would stay that way until Madison Academy broke it open in the fourth quarter. First Johnson added his third score of the game with just under four minutes left to push the lead to 24-7. Following a Miller caused fumble, the big freshman punched it in from six yards with 2:30 left for the final score of the day as the Mustangs celebrated their first football title in school history.