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Johnsonville High School

Johnsonville fighting through adversity in 2017

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Johnsonville—It has been a very trying season for the Johnsonville football team. The Flashes are just 3-4 overall, including a 1-2 mark in Region 7-AA. They haven’t been able to stay healthy and distractions of Homecoming cost them last week against Kingstree.

“We’ve faced adversity throughout the year, from the beginning with the death of a player to now with all the injuries and lack of numbers,” head coach Lewis Lineberger said. “I just want to see our players play as hard as they can every play and be as competitive as we possibly can be. I want them to be able to look themselves in the mirror and know they did the very best they can. We’re going to take one play at a time and go from there.

“It’s also a lesson that life’s not easy and sometimes you have to bow your neck. Sometimes you get knocked down and you have to get back up and make adjustments. The biggest thing is to never give up and keep on grinding.”

Even with some of the negative things happening, the attitude of the team has still been positive. The players have put the team first over their personal goals and done whatever the coaches have asked of them.

“This has been a good group to be around. They’ve worked hard every week. We’re just limited in the number of players and we’ve had some injuries that really hurt us. When we get some back, some others get hurt, and we’ve had to have a lot of players play both ways,” Lineberger said.

Offensively, starting running back Devonte Mack (233 yards, TD) returned this week after missing most of the year with an injury while leading rusher Isiah Gillard (315 yards, 3 TD) is currently out of the lineup along with offensive lineman EJ Sanders and tight end Adam Langley.

Octavius Williams, who has 304 yards and a touchdown on 62 carries, has had to pick up some of the workload. Quarterback Jim Cagle has thrown for 167 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

“We’ve had to move people around. Jakob Marlowe and Octavius Williams have stepped in at tailback and done a good job. At times, we’ve had to put our quarterback at tailback. They’re doing everything they can do. The tough thing is that we have our toughest three games coming up,” Lineberger said.

Sanders and Langley are also starters on defense, leaving a void there as well. However, senior linebacker Sammy Black has continued to put up spectacular numbers, averaging more than 12 tackles per game this season.

“This is the third year in a row he’s been our leading tackler, and I can’t say enough about him. This year, he’s also had to play every snap on offense. To have the defensive numbers he has and to be playing offense too, that really says something about his character and his work ethic and the type of person he is. He never complains and never asks out. He’s doing everything he can to help this football team and is one of the best leaders I’ve been around in my coaching,” Lineberger said.

Branden Coles has burst onto the scene as a sophomore, racking up 76 total tackles and an interception while KheJuan Cooper, another linebacker, is third on the unit with 52 stops.

“He’s been a big surprise,” Lineberger said of Coles. “He’s always around the football making plays. I’m extremely pleased with his development.”

Other key players on defense include Gaitland Powell (three sacks), Marlowe (two sacks) and Malik Washington (two interceptions).

Johnsonville wraps up the regular season with consecutive road games at Andrews and Latta, respectively, before returning home Oct. 27 to face Carvers Bay.

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