Runner Johnson turning debut into record-maker Football: Annapolis running back may be playing high school ball for the first time as a junior, but he already has the school rushing record. And he's threatening county marks, as well.

October 29, 1998|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

His passion, other than running the football, is reading U.S. history, particularly about the Civil War, and one day he hopes to teach the subject.

But for now, Rayvon Johnson is making history as a junior running back for the 13th-ranked, playoff-bound Annapolis Panthers (6-2), a team steeped in rushing tradition.

Coach Roy Brown calls his "very coachable, quiet and very popular" running back, who "always has a smile on his face," an example of hard work day in, day out.

Johnson has emerged as Anne Arundel County's top running back with a school-record 1,529 yards, declaring war on the county record book in his first high school football season.

In his first varsity game, Johnson ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-20 loss to Largo. He followed it with 137 yards and a touchdown in a 13-6 overtime loss to Montgomery County's Paint Branch.

After Johnson's eighth game last week, Paint Branch coach Bob Windsor said the Annapolis star was "the second best back we've played against."

Johnson is lighting it up with 4.4-to-4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash and first-step acceleration and power. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound back's running style reminds some fans and coach Roy Brown of 1980 All-County back Donald "Turkey" Brown.

The coach was an assistant to Al Laramore when Turkey Brown was drawing attention from college powers, such as Ohio State and Oklahoma. Barry Switzer, then Oklahoma coach, was so impressed by films he received that he made his first trip to Maryland to recruit a player. Switzer signed Brown, saying he had "magic in his feet."

"Rayvon is super fast," said coach Brown, who is in his 10th season at Annapolis and is unrelated to the running back. "He's right there with Turkey Brown -- reminds me a lot of him."

Turkey Brown sat out a year at Oklahoma before enrolling at Maryland, where he stood out as a kick returner and defensive back before playing several years in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants.

Johnson has burst into the spotlight after playing his sophomore year with the Cape St. Claire youth football team, where he scored 15 touchdowns in seven games.

"I knew about Rayvon from JV basketball -- knew he had played rec ball and was super quick," said Brown, also a varsity basketball assistant. "He was really quick and could have played in our backfield as a sophomore. He came out this year and has been outstanding. If he does well in the classroom, he could have a bright future in football."

Single-season mark looms

Johnson's 1,529 rushing yards on 176 attempts (8.7 a carry) in eight games leads county backs, and with two regular-season games left already is the 10th best single-season total in Anne Arundel history.

Johnson, who also runs track in the spring and qualified for the states last year by running a 10.7 in the 100 meters, needs 334 yards to eclipse the county single-season mark of 1,862 yards set by Meade's Tanardo Sharps last year.

Johnson broke the Annapolis rushing record of 1,378 yards set by Shawn Taylor in 1992 with 251 yards against Glen Burnie last week. The 251 yards came in the first half of a 49-0 romp and broke the 8-year-old state record of 242 for one half.

The game was Johnson's fourth of the season with more than 200 rushing yards, two short of the record also set by Sharps last year.

If Johnson had played the second half, he would likely have broken the county's single-game record of 340 yards set by St. Mary's Jason Lilly in 1994 (the state record is 418).

"That's OK. I understand coach Brown didn't want to run the score up, and I would rather set a record in a better game," said Johnson, who had 259 yards and only one touchdown three weeks ago in a 35-0 romp over Meade.

Those 259 yards were 20 short of Turkey Brown's school record 279 in 1980 in a 29-25 loss at Severna Park.

Johnson has 14 rushing touchdowns, three short of the record 17 by Taylor and Kenny Boyd (1993), and Johnson's 15 total touchdowns are three away from the Annapolis record 18 by 1984 Player of the Year J Johnson.

"Records are something to be proud of, but I have to credit my line, because they have been blocking great for me," said Rayvon Johnson, who has a 3.00 grade-point average and hopes to play college football and later become a history teacher.

"My favorite subjects are history and math, and I really like reading about the Civil War and the Indians," he said. "But I love running the football and winning football games. We've got a team capable of getting to the state championship."

Rayvon Johnson, game-by-game

Here's how the Annapolis running back has put up his numbers:

Game Opponent .... Result ... Attempts ... Yards .. TDs

1. Largo ......... 29-20 loss .... 24 .... 151 ..... 2

2. Paint Branch .. 13-6 OT loss .. 18 .... 137 ..... 1

3. Frederick ..... 60-0 win ...... 23 .... 205 .... *2

4. Chesapeake .... 42-0 win ...... 10 .... 170 ..... 2

5. Arundel ....... 35-34 win ..... 31 .... 208 ..... 3

6. North County .. 21-0 win ...... 28 .... 148 ..... 1

7. Meade ......... 35-0 win ...... 27 .... 259 ..... 1

8. Glen Burnie ... 49-0 win ...... 15 .. **251 ..... 2

Totals ........... .............. 176 .. 1,529 ... *14

* Also had a TD pass reception

** County, state record for a half

Annapolis rushers

Here are the top eight rushers in Annapolis' history:

Player Yr. ............. Yds.. .. TDs

Rayvon Johnson '98 .... 1,529 .. *14

Shawn Taylor '92 ...... 1,378 ... 17

Kenny Boyd '93 ........ 1,365 ... 17

Turkey Brown '80 ...... 1,251 ... 12

Orlando Johnson '85 ... 1,117 ... 11

Albert Creek '97 ...... 1,107 ... *6

Kevin Thompson **'78 .. 1,102 ... 14

John Rodkey **'78 ..... 1,055 ... 14

* Johnson also has one TD catch; Creek caught three

** Member 12-0 state champion

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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