High school football coaches often spend hours scheming to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers.
Basic’s Jeff Cahill came up with a simple plan before the season to make sure his top athlete got the ball as much as possible. He moved him to quarterback.
Antraye Johnson has rushed for 1,073 yards and passed for 1,544, and helped the Wolves win two of their final three regular-season games to claim the Southeast League’s No. 2 playoff seed. Basic (4-5) opens the Sunrise Region playoffs by hosting No. 8 Las Vegas (5-4) at 7 p.m. today.
“He’s a pure athlete,” Cahill said of Johnson, who rushed for 288 yards and passed for 152 in a 35-27 win over Coronado to close the regular season. “He can throw it, he kicks our extra points, he can run it as a running back, he can catch it if we put him out at receiver. It’s no surprise to us. We knew early on that he could do whatever we ask of him.”
Johnson rushed for 921 yards and had 30 catches for 582 yards as the team’s primary running back last year.
But Cahill knew when the season ended that Johnson would be his next quarterback. And the senior, who said he started out as a quarterback when he began playing in eighth grade, was happy to take on the challenge.
“I played (quarterback) my whole life, so I’m used to it,” Johnson said. “And nobody else really can do it, so I have to step up and do it. I don’t really have a choice.
“If I had to go out there and play offensive line and my team would win, I would do it. I just want to win.”
There’s little chance of Johnson playing on the line, but he’ll probably line up just about everywhere else. Along with taking snaps, he’ll play running back, receiver and return kicks.
“The more places that he is and the defense has to account for him, the harder it is,” Cahill said. “You only get a few days to practice, so the more things they have to practice for, the better off we are.”
Jon Scoffield has added a power running game alongside the shifty Johnson. Scoffield has rushed for 713 yards and 13 touchdowns, and often serves as Johnson’s lead blocker.
“The offensive line is opening holes, and Jon Scoffield is blasting people for me and he’s creating holes and cut backs,” Johnson said. “And I have good vision so I’m able to see things like that.”
Johnson has a quick release and effortless throwing motion, and has spread the ball around this season. Six Wolves have 10 or more receptions.
“I don’t always throw perfect passes, but my receivers make me look good,” Johnson said. “And when I do throw perfect passes, they’re there to catch them, so that helps out a lot.”
While Johnson has the offense clicking, the defense will be tested by Las Vegas. The Wildcats beat Basic 56-28 as part of the Wolves’ 0-3 start. Andrew Moreland had a 47-yard touchdown run and an 80-yard TD reception, and receiver Aaron Zanin-Banks had TD catches of 57 and 66 yards for Las Vegas in that win.
“We’re going to have to control the ball a little bit,” Cahill said. “We’re going to have to have a good running game. And defensively, we’re going to have to contain (Moreland) and (Zanin-Banks). The 80-yard touchdown is what will kill us in this game.”
Cahill said the team has made significant improvements since struggling early in the season.
“It’s taken a little bit longer than we hoped it would take,” Cahill said. “But we’ve always said if we can make it to the end, stay together, that we could hopefully do something in the playoffs. And we’ve put ourselves in that position.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at (702) 380-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.