High school football notes: Hard work pays off for Sac High's converted quarterback

Published: Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012 - 11:56 am

Josiah Johnson was shocked and surprised at the end of his sophomore season when Sacramento High football coach Paul Doherty asked him if he'd be willing to play quarterback in the Dragons' evolving spread offense.

A ferocious hitter and tackler, the senior had been a defense-only player since he started playing at the age of 8.

"He couldn't throw a football to save his life, but he has a high football IQ because he's been playing football his whole life," Doherty said of the former defensive back.

Credit Johnson's amazing work ethic for turning himself into more than just a credible passer and runner.

Saturday against Valley, Johnson completed 10 of 16 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns – all in the first half – as Sacramento pounded undermanned Valley 73-0 during the Dragons' festive homecoming celebration.

The Metro Conference victory made Sacramento (6-2, 4-1) playoff eligible and kept the Dragons rolling toward their goal of hosting their first on-campus playoff game.

Much credit goes to Johnson, who ranks fourth in the Sac-Joaquin Section and 13th in the state in passing yards (2,256) and has passed for 27 touchdowns and rushed for six more. Last season, he passed for 2,340 yards and 23 touchdowns.

All this from someone who thought he'd be the last guy asked to be a quarterback.

"At first, I didn't know what coach Doherty was thinking," Johnson said. "I said, 'Coach, are you sure?' But when he told me it would be the best thing for the team, I decided to step up and put the work in for it."

Did he ever. He'd nag the already dedicated Doherty to work with him even on holidays.

"He's been throwing a football six days a week since November of his sophomore year," Doherty said. "Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's."

Johnson learned much participating in The Passing Academy, put on by former NFL and/or college players Troy Taylor, Bobby Fresques and Doug Cosbie, the former Dragons' coach who brought Doherty to Oak Park after he played for Cosbie at Menlo College in Atherton.

Another mentor is former Sac High quarterback Jonathan Kodama, now at American River College.

"The biggest thing Jonathan has helped me with is keeping my composure, to stay even-keeled," Johnson said. "If I tank, then the whole team tanks."

But if the sturdy 6-foot, 185-pound Johnson had his way, he would have spent more than just a handful of plays on defense Saturday. His teammates had a field day against a Valley team that dressed just 20 players.

Davion Simmons returned two fumbles for touchdowns and Terrell Craig added a third score by way of a fumble.

Sophomore Jimmy Hatch had a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown while the Dragons held the Vikings (1-7, 1-4) to minus-23 total yards.

Johnson transferred to Sac High from Valley at the end of his freshman year so even though he was happy to win, he felt for the Vikings, who faced defending Metro champion Burbank and Sac High on back-to-back weekends.

"I commend those kids for continuing to play," Johnson said. "I know they didn't come out here to have 73 points put on them. But they kept playing hard. A lot of people would quit, because quitting is the easy thing to do."

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