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My Jag News

The Student News Site of Claudia Taylor Johnson High School

My Jag News

The Student News Site of Claudia Taylor Johnson High School

My Jag News

Johnson looks to knock off defending state champs in first-ever playoff game

Johnson+looks+to+knock+off+defending+state+champs+in+first-ever+playoff+game

By Zack Cohen | Sports Editor

On October 22, 2011 the Jags football team made history by becoming the first team in the history of the school to clinch a playoff birth when they beat the Churchill Chargers on the last play of the game. When the Jags take the field for their first-ever playoff game on Friday night, they’ll be staring down the defending state champs. Last year, the Steele Knights, led by the number one running back in the nation, Malcolm Brown, won a State Championship. They are looking to do the same this year, and their first step on the way to that goal would be a win over the Jags; but don’t think for one second that Johnson is going to just roll over.

“We’ve been practicing hard this week; this is probably one of the biggest games of our lives,” running back Xavier McElhannon said.“It’s playoffs. We’re playing the defending state champions, but we’re gonna fight hard. I mean, they’re beatable- they’re just like any other team out there. We’re just gonna fight hard and do what we gotta do, and we know we can win.”

The Jags will undoubtedly come into this one as major underdogs, but that’s something they’ve grown accustomed to, year-in and year-out. On the contrary; as post-season newcomers, they see their greenhorn status as a plus.

“They’re all hype, and have big heads going in 10-0. And we’re just gonna go out there and upset them and show them what we’re made of,” quarterback Cohner Mokry said.

The Jags came into this season with great expectations, and certainly lived up to most of them already. Still, it’s not enough for the best of the team’s players.

“I mean, we have a lot that we haven’t done yet. And we’re making progress each and every game. We’re improving as the season goes, so we’re gonna go out there and play with all our hearts,” Mokry said.

The success seen by the Jags could all be credited to one man, Johnson head coach Ron Rittimann. The coach, however, would direct such praises elsewhere.

“I think all the credit goes to the players; the athletes themselves, for all the hard work and the time they’ve put in these first 4 years. It also goes to the players that have come and gone in the first 3 years, because they’ve laid the foundation for the success that we are having now.  But it also goes to all the coaches on the staff, the community, the administrators, the fans; it’s been a total team effort for us to get to where we are today,” Rittimann said.

This will not only be Johnson’s first ever playoff game but also Rittimann’s first as a head coach.

“I think it’s excitement; it’s why we play the game, it’s why I coach. I’ve been in many playoff games in my career, but never as the head coach. But I’ll be excited. You get the little butterflies in your stomach, because when your team’s prepared and having success, you’re excited to go out and show what you can do, and I’m thinking that’s gonna be the feeling before tonight’s kickoff” Rittimann said.

An unexpected bright spot coming from the Jags this season has been 1st-year running back Xavier McElhannon, who took the ‘Double J Nation’ by storm this year, rushing for 1,128 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Coming into this year, no Jaguar player had ever broke the thousand-yard mark on the ground. But for McElhannon, that’s just a stat. Winning remains his paramount focus.

“You know, it’s a pride thing here at Johnson. We’re the first playoff team to ever come out. We got a lot of seniors this year that want it. It means a lot to win in the first playoff round and make a playoff run; to set it up for the future Jaguars of Johnson High School,” McElhannon said.

The Jags held the second-best defense in their District this season, only letting up 324 yards a game. A lot of that came from senior linebacker Max Cave. This night has been a dream for Cave ever since he stepped foot on campus, 4 years ago.

“When we were freshmen, we thought we were gonna be the first team to go to playoffs, and- lo and behold- we’re here, doing it. The goal is not to just get to the playoffs; it’s about winning in the playoffs. So we’re gonna go make it happen tonight,” Cave said.

This year has been filled with great excitement, close games, broken records, and history being made left and right. With a win against Steele, the Jags will continue their historic season and improbable playoff run, but with a loss; all of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears exhibited by the Jags over the last four years will all go for not.

“We’ve gone through so much… for 4 years with our coaches. Whether it’s going out and running the hill in 27 degree weather,” Cave said. “We don’t want all that to go to waste.”

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Johnson looks to knock off defending state champs in first-ever playoff game