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Prep football: Johnson 27, Pickens 6
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Hear David Shumake, assistant superintendent for Gainesville city schools, explain how funding is tight for the district’s planned sixth elementary school, Mundy Mill Academy.

Johnson High football coach Paul Friel was concerned about motivation for Friday night’s season finale at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.

The Knights (4-6, 2-2 Region 7B-AAA) were out of playoff contention, and Johnson didn’t even have the opportunity to ruin Pickens’ playoff chances.

However, Friel’s concerns didn’t last long, thanks to a solid night running the football (233 yards), an opportunistic performance by freshman running back Mantevius Rucker (three touchdowns) and a strong defensive performance highlighted by four forced turnovers en route to a 27-6 victory on senior night.

"I’m so proud of these seniors we have here, and it was great to send them off on a winning note," Friel said. "We busted our butts, and I feel like we came away with a strong win.

"That really helps to motivate our kids who are coming back next season to finish with a win this season."

"This was a huge win for me as a senior to go out with a win, and a good way to catapult these guys coming back next season," Johnson senior Micah Mills said. "This team is going to be a powerhouse next season."

Friel sent a clear message to Pickens in the first half that set the tone for the night: Anything you can do, we can do better.

Pickens converted on a fake punt for a first down in the first quarter, and the Knights eagerly returned the favor.

Johnson’s Mick Shannon converted on a fourth-and-3 on the its next drive with a 5-yard run. That spurred on a 17-play, 74-yard drive in the second quarter capped by a Mantevius Rucker touchdown run from the 1 in the final seconds of the first half.

Rucker was the primary ball carrier on the touchdown drive with six carries. The Knights’ freshman tailback finished the game with touchdown runs of 1, 3, and 1 yard and had 47 yards rushing.

But it was the Knights’ defense that really set the tone for the victory. In a sloppy first quarter, Johnson’s Cody Tatum recovered a fumble and Christian Duguay had an interception.

Mills and Beau Robson added interceptions in the fourth quarter for the Knights.

"This win gives us a stepping stone for next season," Knights sophomore linebacker Gilberto Espinoza said. "We really wanted to send the seniors out with a win on senior night."

Johnson quarterback Bobby Wirsing also played well in his final game. He completed six passes for 55 yards. Omar Madrigal led the Knights’ running game with 16 carries for 89 yards.

Tre Dudley and Chris Cannon each had 15-yard catches for the Knights.

The Knights’ defense limited Pickens’ (2-8, 0-4) offense to 88 yards on the ground and only 179 yards of total offense. Devin Mosley led the Dragons’ offense with four catches for 66 yards.

Alex Willingham was Pickens’ leading ball carrier with six carries for 30 yards.

Johnson’s and Pickens’ seasons are now both complete.

Johnson 27, Pickens 6

Pickens 0 6 0 0—6

Johnson 7 7 7 6—27

First quarter

JHS—Rucker 3 run (Wirsing kick) :28

Second quarter

Pickens—Bennett 4 pass from Harrington (kick failed) 7:48

JHS—Rucker 1 run (Wirsing kick) :01

Third quarter

JHS—Dudley 15 pass from Wirsing (Wirsing kick) 6:16

Fourth quarter

JHS—Rucker 1 run (kick failed) 11:19

Team summary

Johnson Pickens

First downs 16 10

Rushes-yards 53-233 19-88

Passing yards 55 8-99

Comp.-Att.-Int. 5-10-1 8-17-2

Total yards 288 187

Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-1

Punts-avg. 1-32 3-29

Penalties-yards 4-45 6-55

Individual leaders

Rushing: Johnson, Rucker 13-47, Prophet 2-5, Arthur 6-34, Wirsing 8-14, Madrigal 16-89, Dudley 7-39, Shannon 1-5. Pickens, Willingham 6-30, Larson 5-17, Mosley 1-7, Harrington 7-34.

Passing: Johnson, Wirsing 5-10-1. Pickens, Harrington 4-11-0, Cantrell 4-5-0, Mosley 0-1-0.

Receiving: Johnson, Head 2-12, Cannon 2-19, Madrigal 1-9, Dudley 1-15. Pickens, Mosley 4-66, Bennett 1-4, Reeves 1-18, Harrington 1-2, Larson 1-9.

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