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AL Johnson blanks John Essex, 40-0

A.L. Johnson got out to an early lead in the Class 1A Region 3 race with a 40-0 shutout at rival John Essex.

Cleophus Daniel ran seven times for a game-high 97 yards and two first-half touchdowns, while Kendarius Fritts had 10 runs for 95 yards.

Quarterback Kejuan McGhee had two short-yardage touchdowns for the Eagles (1-0, 1-0 1A-3) and Ronzell Henton returned a John Essex funble 15 yards for a touchdown. ALJHS had 278 yards on 39 carries.

“Our offensive line did a better job here than they did last week (at the jamboree,” said ALJ head coach Mose Jones, opening his 15th season with the Eagles. “I knew we had a good group coming into the season.”

The heat and injuries plagued John Essex (0-1, 0-1 1A-3), and the Eagle defense set up shop in the Hornets’ backfield, as JEHS finished with minus-67 yards on 25 carries.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said JEHS head coach Fentress Means, opening his second season at John Essex, “especially against a veteran coach like Coach Jones. With the offense we run, we’ve got to fire up off the ball.”

Near the end of the first quarter of a scoreless game, John Essex’s DeMarkez Dillingham punted the ball away. It bounced off of an ALJ receiver. The Eagles were able to recover on the JEHS 43-yard line.

A 14-yard run by McGhee and a 10-yard run by Fritts brought the Eagles to the JEHS 4, and two plays later, McGhee burst through the line for the first score of the game. The two-point attempt failed, but A.L. Johnson took a 6-0 lead with 9:29 left in the first half.

On the Hornets’ ensuing drive, an attempted pitch play went awry, and Henton scooped it up and ran 15 yards into the endzone for the Eagles’ second score in 65 seconds. Fritts ran the two-point conversion to give ALJ a 14-0 lead with 8:24 remaining in the second quarter.

John Essex was forced to punt the ball away on its next drive, and the Eagles took over near midfield. A 39-yard pass from McGhee to Henton set up a 22-yard scamper by Daniel for another Johnson score. The two-point conversion failed, but A.L. Johnson took a 20-0 lead with 4:02 left in the half.

With time running out in the first h alf, the Hornets again punted the ball away, and on second down, Daniel made another long run, a 38-yard touchdown jaunt with 28.1 seconds left. The conversion failed again, but the Eagles took a 26-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The second half was more of the same.

A 14-yard run by Daniel set u p a one-yard TD run by Kejuan McGhee with 4:11 left in the third quarter. The conversion failed, giving ALJ a 32-0 score.

Late in the game, A.L. Johnson scored once more, as another bad snap on a John Essex punt gave the Eagles the ball on the JEHS 20. Demarco Jackson took the ball that distance with about 2:52 left in the game. The conversion run by Kelvin Fritts ended the scoring at 40-0.

A.L. Johnson continues a four-game string against Region 3 opponents when it visits Autaugaville on Friday. John Essex continues a six-game season-opening string against Region 3 foes when it visits Holy Spirit in Tuscaloosa next week.