Johnson football coach William Harrell feels like better days are within reach for its program.
After going winless the past two seasons, the third-year leader for the Knights has seen increased player participation and compiling a non-region schedule as channels for his squad to become competitive in the near future.
This summer, Johnson’s football program has seen around 40 players each day coming in for conditioning and weightlifting, he said.
By the time the season starts against Banks County on Friday, Johnson’s coach feels like having 45 players dressed out will be adequate for his needs on varsity.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Harrell said. “I’m not going to overinflate what’s going on with us, but I’ve seen more of a commitment this summer.”
In 2022, Johnson will play the first of two seasons in a non-region schedule, then will evaluate to see whether it can become competitive again with a traditional league format.
For the next two years, the Knights are slotted to play athletics in a talent-rich Region 8-4A.
The decision to play a non-region schedule was announced Jan. 26, which was fully supported by Harrell.
“Playing a non-region schedule is not going to guarantee wins, but it makes sure we’re playing against programs at a similar level to where we’re at right now, Harrell said.”
Very important for Johnson was preserving its biggest rivalry: a matchup against West Hall in Week 2 of the regular season.
Also, Johnson will face East Hall, East Jackson, East Forsyth, Towns County and Banks County.
The remainder of the schedule will be heavy with small programs from Atlanta: Druid Hills, Clarkston, Midtown and Lakeside.
On offense, Johnson is given some juice with the return of running back Demitri Moon, who missed most of the 2021 season with a collarbone injury, Harrell said.
Moon will line up in many different positions, trying to get the best athlete on the field the ball.
Grayson Higgins, a junior, is the leading candidate at quarterback.
Also getting ample carries will be Jud Farmer, who is also the staple of the Knights defense from the strong safety spot.
In addition, Johnson will use fullback Julian Gomez to help create running lanes.
At wide receiver, Linus Griffith is a returning starter that Johnson’s coach is excited to see what he can do.
“He’s a tall target for us at 6-foot-3,” Harrell said. “We hope teams load the box on us and we can use him as a deep threat.”
At tight end, Johnson will primarily use Jesus Ponce for his ability to set the edge in the run game.
Up front, Johnson is led by Guillermo Rosales and Mauricio Zaragoza, both returning starters, along with Andres Madera.
In the middle, Caleb Garmon will start at center.
On defense, Johnson’s coach is also encouraged by his secondary.
In addition to Farmer, the Knights will feature Moon, Nehemiah Anderson and Griffith.
At linebacker, Higgins, Christian Lemos, Julian Gomez and Ponce are the leading candidates. On special teams, Farmer, Griffith, Moon and Joshua Mascrier will share in kick and punt return roles.
Joshua Garmon is the frontrunner to be kicker and punter.