A.L. Johnson overcomes sluggish start to top Sunshine

THOMASTON – Seldom has a football team been so happy when trailing as A.L. Johnson was at halftime Friday night.

The Eagles survived an extremely sluggish first half performance against Sunshine High School, only to cut a 16-6 deficit to 16-14 on the final two plays before the break.

The momentum shift propelled the sixth-ranked Eagles to a 42-22 win.

A spirited Sunshine Tigers squad had taken a 16-6 lead with less than a minute to play in the second on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Travis Lucky to Keonta Edwards, followed by Lucky’s toss to Eddie Fikes for the two-point conversion.

With all the momentum in the Tigers’ corner, A.L. Johnson’s Charles Edwards returned the kickoff into Tiger territory, which set up and amazing 33-yard catch and run by Edwards on the next play. When the dust had settled, ALJ had the ball on the SHS 15 with three seconds left. As time expired, A.L. Johnson quarterback Zynell McGhee found Gregory Baker in the end zone for the score, then McGhee slipped in for the two-point conversion to steal Big Mo from the Sunshine sideline in a matter of seconds.

“That was really big for getting our guys up,” said A.L. Johnson head coach Johnny Ford. “We preach that we need to just keep playing. As long as there is time on the clock, we’ve got a chance.”

A.L. Johnson looked as though it would pick up where it left off when the third quarter opened, driving to the Sunshine 24 before a fumble ended the drive. From there, neither team was able to score until A.L. Johnson took its first lead with 7:41 remaining in the fourth on a 47-yard McGhee-to-Edwards pass. McGhee hit Mike Croom on the two–point try, staking ALJ to a 22-16 advantage.

The Eagles added three more scores on a five-yard Samuel Monroe run, and touchdown scampers of 31 and 49 yards by Croom. Sunshine added a late touchdown on a Fikes 35-yard run.

Sunshine opened the night’s scoring on a three-yard Earnest Bryant run midway through the first quarter before ALJ cut the margin to 8-6 on an eight-yard McGhee-t0-Baker touchdown toss early in the second.

“We made a lot of mistakes early,” said Ford. “We gave them plenty of opportunities to hang around. We could have folded several times but we showed a lot of character tonight.”

A.L. Johnson is now 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in region play. The Eagles travel to Dixons Mills Thursday night for a battle with intra-county rival Marengo High.

“That’s one of those games that you can throw out the records,” said Ford. “It’s a short week and a rival game. Plus when you’re ranked, everybody gets up for you.”