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|Johnson, Harkins lead Parish team|
Vidalia High senior Kevin Johnson went into the 2008 football season determined to keep his emotions under control and stay focused on the season.
As a sophomore and junior, Johnson's emotions sometimes got the best of him, leading to a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
But it was a different Johnson this year as the Viking back stepped up as a leader, ignoring certain talk from opponents and backing away from situations that would have resulted in yellow flags flying in the past.
"Kevin matured a lot this year," said Vidalia coach Dee Faircloth. "He didn't let his temper get to him and he turned into a real leader on the field, mostly by his example. It wasn't by dialogue, it was by deed. He carried us all year."
"I knew I had to step up this year and I was glad to do that for Coach Faircloth," Johnson said. "I just kept my head up and didn't pay attention to the kind of things that would get me upset in the past."
Johnson, the 2008 All-Parish Player of the Year, finished with 1,215 yards on 199 carries with 21 touchdowns. He also played on the defensive side of the ball.
"I really didn't think I would get over 1,000 yards," he said. "But Coach was counting on me. I really wanted to turn it up during district.
The Vikings missed out on tying for the District 3-3A championship after Buckeye scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat Vidalia 27-20.
"That was the hardest loss I've ever had," said Johnson, still shaking his head when thinking about that contest.
Needless to say, the 24-20 win over Ferriday rates as the top highlight of the year.
"I had not been part of a win over Ferriday since junior high," Johnson said. "That would have been tough not ever having beaten them."
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Johnson said he has had several Southwestern Athletic Conference teams contact him.
"I'm thinking about going the junior college route and then signing on with a Division I school," Johnson said.
Johnson said he would play either side of the ball.
"I love offense, but it doesn't matter," he said. "I love having the ball in my hands and making things happen."
The 2008 Coach of the Year is Huntington's Chad Harkins.
It didn't take Harkins long to come up with the top highlight of 2008, one which saw the Hounds finish 9-4. falling to Porter's Chapel in the second round of the playoffs.
"Certainly it was a big deal to win a playoff game at home," Harkins said of the Hounds' 44-24 win over Newton Academy in the first round of the playoffs. "The school really needed that."
Before the first round game in November, Huntington had not hosted a playoff game since 1988 when that team lost to Plain Dealing in the Louisiana Independent School Association finals.
The win over Newton was the first-ever MPSA home playoff game in Ferriday.
"We were happy to win that and even that week we (Harkins and assistant coach Delaine Yocum) had talked about if we won that game then it would be a great year," Harkins said. "But then after we looked at the tapes of that game we really felt we could beat Porter's Chapel."
Porter's Chapel entered the second round game with a 13-0 record, but needed a 24-yard scoring pass to defeat the Hounds 27-26 to advance to the South State championship, where they fell to Glenbrook.
Huntington's game plan against Porter's Chapel was to control the ball and the clock, and for the most part the Hounds stuck to that play, amassing 366 yards on the ground and holding on to the ball for 36 minutes.
"They actually had only two possessions in the second half, but they scored on both possessions," Harkins said. "We gave up three big pass plays and we missed three two-point conversions. They had three plays that were big for them that we went over and over during the week."
The Hounds had four scoring drives in the game, none of which lasted less than 12 plays or six minutes.
"Porter's Chapel had beaten some good teams, but I felt we had a great chance to win," Harkins said. "But I knew we had to stop them from throwing the football. That was our downfall all year."
Despite starting the year with 12 seniors, Harkins still had to replace such standouts as Jody Cottongin, Chris Carroll, Seth Swilley and Dude Harrell from the previous year.
"I thought the chemistry would be pretty good," he said. "A lot of the guys had not played a lot of games, but they had been in the system and knew what to expect. Our offensive line from tight end from tight end was just as good or maybe better from the year before. But we were not as strong defensively, especially defending the pass. We were probably one good guy in the secondary from really having an outstanding year. But we are certainly proud of what these kids accomplished this season."
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