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Lake Gibson Beats Sebring to Win Class 6A-8 District Title
By MIKE COBB LEDGER CORRESPONDENT
LAKELAND – Lake Gibson survived five turnovers, a quarterback change and Sebring's final drive to defeat the Blue Streaks 24-20 to win the Class 6A, District 8 title.
Sophomore backup quarterback Kevaris Thomas threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Dariaze Kirkland early in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead touchdown, and the Braves' defense knocked down three passes in the final seconds after the Blue Streaks had driven inside the Braves' 30.
The win was Lake Gibson's seventh in a row and puts the Braves (7-3) into the Class 6A regional playoffs in two weeks. They will host Brandon in a first-round game. Sebring (7-1) will travel to Seffner Armwood in the first round of the playoffs.
Next week, Lake Gibson is off while Sebring closes out its regular-season against Avon Park.
The Braves managed to pull out the win despite losing four fumbles and throwing an interception. Thomas started the game for Orem in a coaches' decision, but Orem came back on in the second quarter and led the Braves to a pair of touchdowns on runs by Travell Jones giving the Braves a 14-9 halftime lead. Jones finished the game with 133 yards on 25 carries while Thomas completed 7-of-8 passes for 68 yards.
A pair of lost fumbles and an interception to start the second half led to 11 Sebring points and a 20-14 lead with the Blue Streaks regaining the lead on a 32-yard TD pass from Brian Lane to Dallas Frazier on fourth-and-18 midway through the third quarter.
At that point, Thomas came back in and drove the Braves into range for a 29-yard Nick Lutz field goal that cut Sebring's lead to 20-17.
After a muffed snap on a punt set the Braves up at the Sebring 24, Thomas then hit Kirkland for the go-ahead score.
The second quarter was delayed 25 minutes when Sebring's Delton Hawthorne Jr., sustained a neck injury and was taken off the field by ambulance. He did have movement in his arms and legs and gave the crowd a thumbs-up sign as he was being put into the ambulance.
Lake Gibson's Johnson to play in Under Armour all-star game
By Roy FuocoThe Ledger
It's now official. Baveon Johnson will play in the Under Armour All-America Football Game on Jan. 2 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
The Lake Gibson offensive lineman received his replica jersey at a ceremony Tuesday in the cafeteria at Lake Gibson High School with teammates, classmates, teachers, coaches and administrators looking on.
"This is very, very exciting," Johnson said. "I'm blessed. I'm very blessed."
Johnson is the second Braves football player to play in the Under Armour game. Former offensive lineman Rick Barnum, who played college football at Michigan, was selected for the game in 2007. Haines City's Derwin James, who is now at Florida State, played in the game last year.
A Florida State commit, Johnson received invitations following the Nike Regionals in Orlando earlier this year to play in the U.S. Army All-America game and the Under Armour game and chose the Under Armour game.
"I wanted to stay in Florida, and I knew this was the best game to play in," he said.
Johnson, who was recently chosen the Florida Athletic Coaches Assocation Class 6A player of the year for District 13 (Polk County), is ranked 39th overall in the ESPN 300, the fifth lineman on the list and the No. 1 center. Yet he takes the rankings in stride.
"He's very humble," mother Sanquinitta Johnson said. "All the attention he gets, it doesn't give him the big head. He just loves to play football."
His parents, of course, are happy about Johnson's achievement.
"We're very proud of him," hits father, Shamba Johnson, said. "It's a very big accomplishment and there's a lot more to come."
The 6-foot-3, 328-pound Johnson began the season as the Lake Gibson starting center but moved to guard to take advantage of his athleticism. Depending on match-ups, Johnson will play center at times and could see action there this week.
"We felt like the kid we have at the center spot can most of the time handle what we see, and we wanted him (Johnson) to do more things like pulling, little things like that," Lake Gibson coach Keith DeMyer said. "It's worked out pretty good."
Lake Gibson closes out its regular season against Sebring on Friday at home to determine the Class 6A, District 8 champion. Both teams are undefeated in the district. After an 0-3 start, the Braves have won six in a row.
"It was a challenge at the beginning, but now our team has turned it around," Johnson said. "I'm loving this season. I'm now playing guard, and it's a lot more challenging than playing center. I'm very enjoying that."
Jones runs wild to lead Braves over Eagles
LAKELAND — Lake Gibson sophomore running back Travell Jones needed nearly 300 yards in his final two games to reach 1,000 yards rushing in the regular season — 291 to be exact. He got nearly all of that in just one game.
Jones rushed for 255 yards and four touchdowns to lead Lake Gibson to a 31-10 victory over George Jenkins on Friday night at Virgil Ramage Stadium before about 1,500 fans.
"It felt great," Jones said. "When I see a hole, I try my best to burst through it and just keep running. Try to have fun."
That's certainly what he did when he took the ball on the first play of the second half and bolted for an 80-yard touchdown, his fourth score of the night, which put the Braves up 31-3. Jones unofficially now has 964 yards going into next week's showdown with Sebring for the district title.
Jones led a prolific running game that piled up 383 yards on the ground. Quarterback Hunter Orem ran 10 times for 102 yards, and his 55-yard run in the first quarter set up Jones' first touchdown run of 17 yards two plays later. Jones also had touchdown runs of 31 and 23 yards in the first half when the Braves took a 24-3 lead.
"I feel like it's a very big achievement," Lake Gibson offensive lineman Baveon Johnson said. "I feel like if he (Jones) is getting that many yards, that means we're blocking someone. That means we're blocking good."
The victory gives Lake Gibson (6-3) its sixth consecutive win after an 0-3 start.
"We came together as a family," Johnson said. "Me and my teammates have been working hard at practice."
Committing to the ground game also has been key. The Braves threw just seven times.
"Running is our strong suit right now," Orem said. "We know we can come out and pound the ball down whose ever throat it is."
George Jenkins, which was without leading rusher Bennode Cason who is out with a hand injury, came out strong on the opening drive. The Eagles went 65 yards on 13 plays before the drive stalled at the 17, and they had to settle for a Ben Rice 34-yard field goal.
The Eagles (2-6), who finished with 239 yards offense, couldn't get anything going again until late in the third quarter. Following a Lake Gibson fumble that went through the end zone, stopping a scoring drive, Didiah Hall scampered 79 yards and was brought down at the 1. Jenkins quarterback Ski McWilliams scored from the 1 two plays later
Jones' late TD leads Lake Gibson to win over Auburndale
AUBURNDALE — As Auburndale ran off the field in celebration after Jessie Britt gave the team a 14-12 lead over Lake Gibson, it looked like the Bloodhounds were on their way to the perfect ending on homecoming.
But with 2:31 left in the game, Lake Gibson didn't panic. The Braves struggled to string together much throughout the night, but behind quarterback Hunter Orem and tailback Travell Jones, they put together a methodical drive when it counted.
Jones capped it off with a 27-yard touchdown with 44.1 seconds to go and Lake Gibson walked away with a 20-14 win in front of around 1,000 people at Bruce Canova Stadium on Friday.
“The kids came in composed,” Lake Gibson head coach Keith DeMyer said. “There's 2:31 left, we knew we had enough time, we just had to pick up the first downs. That was a big run on that counter that we ran by Travell. We've got to learn, as a football team, to put the nail in the coffin.”
Lake Gibson had a chance to do just that midway through the fourth quarter, but after failing to convert on third down — a problem all game — Auburndale's Jarrod Kelley blocked Orem's punt.
The Bloodhounds took over inside Braves' territory and Britt did the rest.
The versatile athlete spent much of the night at quarterback and led Auburndale to a game-tying score before taking the lead on a completion to Isaac Etienne for the 2-point conversion.
But the Bloodhounds couldn't answer Lake Gibson's late score, mustering nothing on their final drive.
“That's been kind of our Achilles heel all year — we're right there, we just have to learn how to finish,” said Auburndale head coach Billy Deeds. “We've got a young team, we've got a new coaching staff, a new offense, the whole nine yards.”
Britt did a little bit of everything for Auburndale in defeat, rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown, throwing for 15 yards and a touchdown while catching 3 passes for 57 yards to finish off a 142-yard night. Jones and Orem led the Braves as each topped 100 yards on the ground with 123 and 105 yards, respectively.
Lake Gibson fights past Leesburg
LEESBURG – Homecoming took an ugly turn at Leesburg High School on Friday night. Pushing and shoving in the final seconds turned into a whole lot more as chaos broke loose on the field at the end of Leesburg’s game against Lakeland Lake Gibson.
Leesburg coach Doug Allison pulled his team off the field with 22 seconds remaining in the Yellow Jackets’ 25-13 loss, but things didn’t end there as Leesburg players rushed around behind the field looking for Lake Gibson players and fans started rushing to the area as officials desperately tried to restore order.
“There was a lot of mouthing and tempers got out of control,” Allison said. “That’s unacceptable for us and I take full responsibility for my team. I just thought it was best to get them out of there. Even with the officials throwing flags, it was clear they were struggling to keep the peace.”
Two players were officially ejected from the game as instigators, sophomore defensive back Cordrayius Graham for Leesburg and senior Dariaze Kirkland for Lake Gibson.
“I’ve been coaching for 37 years and I’ve never had one like that,” Lake Gibson coach Keith DeMyer said. “They got hot, I guess, and maybe it was best that he (Allison) pulled his team off the field. Their kids were chasing us, trying to get to come after us. The sad thing is that it was a good game for three quarters.”
The tide turned in the game after Leesburg (2-5) took over at the Lake Gibson 15 while trailing 19-13 with 7:29 left in the game. But after a run gained nothing, Leesburg quarterback Wyatt Rector was intercepted by Carlos Best.
Travell Jones, who rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, then broke free up the middle for a 54-yard gain on the next play and then took it to the Leesburg 1 on his next carry. Darius Willis took it in from there for the final scoring in the game.
After stopping Leesburg on downs, Lake Gibson (4-3) was threatening to score again when the pushing and shoving started and several Leesburg players left the bench to get in the middle of things.
“They are a good football team and they gave us a heck of a game,” DeMyer said.
“They gave us some breaks and we put points on the board.”
BRAVES ROLL TO 45-0 WIN OVER LAKE REGION
LAKELAND | Lake Gibson quarterback Hunter Orem orchestrated the Braves' 45-0 victory over outmanned Lake Region on Friday night at Virgil Ramage Stadium.
The senior made plays with his right arm, his legs and his hands in front of 500 fans in the Class 6A-District 8 matchup.
“He can make some plays athletically,'' Lake Gibson coach Keith DeMyer said.
Orem ran for touchdowns of 20 and 22 yards on quarterback-keepers for Lake Gibson's first two touchdowns. He connected on 5-of-6 passes for 73 yards and a 34-yard TD strike to Alan Anderson. And he caught two passes from backup quarterback Kevaris Thomas after DeMyer starting using his reserves midway through the second quarter.
Lake Gibson, 3-3, won its third straight game.
“We went through that rough patch in the beginning with all these young kids,'' DeMyer said. “They're starting to come around.''
The Braves are 2-0 in the district, tied for first with Sebring.
“It doesn't matter what your record is. It's how you finish,'' DeMyer said, referring to the district playoffs.
Lake Region, 2-4, lost its fourth in a row.
Lake Gibson's two sophomore running backs, Trevelle Jones and Darius Willis, each scored a touchdown.
Thomas finished the rout with a 4-yard run with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter, which was played with a running clock after the Braves took a 38-0 lead with 2 seconds left in the third period.
Lake Gibson's defense completely throttled the Thunder, holding them to 132 total yards while coming up with two interceptions by Carlos Best and Jeconiah Jones and a pair of fumble recoveries.
“I thought the front four did a great job,'' DeMyer said, with Keyshon Camp standing out.
The Braves scored after both pick-offs, and also scored a pair of TDs after Lake Region failed to get off three straight punts in the third quarter.
Lake Gibson travels to Leesburg Friday night for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Lake Gibson defeats Dr. Krop in homecoming rout 30-0
LAKELAND — The Lake Gibson Braves played their most complete game of the year and it only went one half as they defeated Miami Dr. Krop 30-0 in a contest that was stopped at halftime because of a lightning storm in front of 1,000 homecoming fans at Virgil Ramage Stadium Friday night. They have now won back-to-back games since starting the season 0-3.
The Braves (2-3) started off strong as they took the opening kickoff and scored on a drive that lasted 65 yards on eight plays. Running back Travell Jones scored on a run untouched from eight yards out. He rushed for 29 of his team-high 90 yards on the opening drive, which was made up of seven runs and one pass.
The home team went up by two scores when running back Anthony Llosa took a inside hand off and scored from 18 yards out. The Braves scored on five of their six possessions in the contest.
After scoring another touchdown to go up 21-0 on the first play of the second half, the Braves' special teams unit got in on the scoring as a host of Braves blocked a punt in the end zone and the ball went toward the far pylon. Officials determined that the ball went out of the end zone near the pylon resulting in a safety.
The Braves' offensive and defensive lines were the story on this rainy night. The offensive line gave quarterback Hunter Orem time to run the offense to the tune of 269 yards and open up big holes for the running backs to score. The defensive line constantly harassed Bolt junior quarterback Matthew Bethel as he was sacked three times and even when he had time to throw, the receivers could not hold on to the ball. The defense did not give up a first down until 1:48 left in the first half as they only gave up 30 yards of offense.
Lake Gibson has started discussion about playing Dr. Krop again next year. They will host Lake Region in their second district game next week.
Braves take Highlanders at Legion Field
LAKE WALES — Lake Gibson’s offense didn’t do much in the second half, but once Hunter Orem scored on a 98-yard interception return for his third touchdown of the game, it really didn’t have to.
The Braves’ allowed just one score and defeated Lake Wales 19-6 on Thursday night in a Class 6A, District 8 game at Legion Field.
The victory gets Lake Gibson (1-3, 1-0) off to a good start in the district race after beginning the season with three consecutive losses.
“It’s huge,” Orem said. “It shows that we can actually get something going and that we can get a win. I think we got to where it actually counts, and that’s where we decided to put everything together and get the win.”
Lake Gibson outgained Lake Wales (2-2, 0-1) 156 yards to 44 yards in the first half but managed just 39 yards in the second half. The Braves, however, led 13-0 at halftime, which forced the Highlanders to play catch-up in the second half.
Initially, it appeared that wouldn’t be a problem for the Highlanders. On their first possession of the second half, quarterback Xavier Gaines found Devyn Lewis for a 50-yard touchdown pass that made it a 13-6 game.
Late in the the third quarter, Lake Wales was driving again. A Gaines-to-Lewis pass for 30 yards, a 15-yard rush by Gaines helped the Highlanders drive to the 18. But after a 5-yard penalty, Gaines threw high to a receiver on third down at the 23. Orem caught it at the 2 and went the distance.
“Honestly, I went blank,” Orem said. “I caught it, and everything from there was blank, but I knew that I had to make a play and make something happen. I’m glad I was able to work something out and make a big play for the team.”
Gaines finished with 162 yards passing but completed just 13 of 34 passes with another half dozen drops by receivers. He also threw two interceptions.
Lake Gibson capitalized on a Lake Wales turnover in the first quarter, blocking a punt after a poor snap to take over at the Lake Wales 25. Orem later scored on a 14-yard run.
Lake Gibson’s longest drive came in the second quarter. The Braves drove 47 yards on 11 plays and scored on Orem’s 5-yard run.
Orem rushed for 60 yards and completed 6 of 12 passes for 49 yards. Travell Jones led the Braves with 88 yards on 19 carries with 61 yards coming in the first half.
Penalties plagued both teams. Lake Wales was penalized 12 times for 104 yards, and Lake Gibson had nine penalties for 90 yards.
Dillard drops Lake Gibson to 0-3
LAKELAND — Lake Gibson's inconsistent play reared its head again as they fell to 0-3 on the season after a 28-14 loss to Fort Lauderdale Dillard before 600 fans at Virgil Ramage Stadium on Friday night.
The Braves, who start district play next week against Lake Wales, fell behind 13-0 thanks to the the arm and legs of Lion quarterback Anthony Hasan, who scored from 12 yards out in the first quarter. Hasan also converted on a 4th-and-16 play when he found Jordan Merrell on a 32-yard touchdown pass to begin the second quarter. Hasan threw into double coverage but Merrell was able to come down with the ball. Merrell again found the end zone later on a 37-yard touchdown from backup Moises Francois.
"The bottom line is we have to play four quarters of football, which we have not been able to do so far this season," Braves coach Keith DeMyer said. "The season is not over by any means because districts start up next week."
The Braves cut the 13-0 deficit in half as quarterback Hunter Orem scored from 15 yards out midway through the third quarter on a seven-play, 44-yard drive on the ground. Lake Gibson ran the ball on every play in the second half, except for one, in a attempt to get consistent play from the running game.
"We will be alternating quarterbacks (Orem and Kevaris Thomas) as one can run and one can throw," DeMyer added. "It goes back to the consistent play I mentioned."
The Lions (2-1) scored on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter to end the competitive part of the game as Kenario Jean scored on a reverse, which went for 52 yards in addition to Merrell's second score.
"He (Hasan) did a good job for us tonight running the offense considering this was his first year as starting quarterback," Lion coach Lorenzo Davis said. "We had penalties tonight which killed us, so we have to clean that up." Dillard was penalized 10 times in the contest.
The Braves' defense gave up 489 yards of offense to Dillard.
WINTER HAVEN ROLLS LAKE GIBSON
LAKELAND — Tekendrick Roberson ran for 181 yards and William Tate threw four touchdown passes Friday night in Winter Haven's 41-13 victory over Lake Gibson.The Blue Devils (2-0) got their balanced offense going after turning back a Lake Gibson threat early in the game and piled up 414 total yards.It was only 7-0 until Tate completed six passes on an 80-yard drive that got Winter Haven a second touchdown with one second left in the first half, turning the game sharply in the Blue Devils' favor.“We had our two-minute offense thing going and then we were fortunate to get our throw-back play to work for the touchdown,” said Winter Haven coach Charlie Tate. “Then when we scored to start the third quarter, we were playing really well on both sides.”Tate completed 16-of-23 passes for 178 yards with one interception, throwing touchdowns to four different receivers including the 9-yard toss to Chayce Armbruster at the end of the first half.Roberson's 181 yards on 18 carries did not include a touchdown run, although he did catch a six-yard TD pass from Tate to finish a 10-play 75-yard drive at the outset of the second half.Notwithstanding the one-sided final score, it was Lake Gibson that had the first scoring opportunity, thanks to Trevelle Jones' 61-yard completion to Dariaze Kirkland early in the second quarter. The Braves (0-2) drove to a first down at the Winter Haven 2-yard line, but a penalty moved them back and a fake field-goal attempt failed to fool the Blue Devils, who dominated the rest of the game.“It hurt us not to be able to score down there, and then when they scored at the end of the half it really put us in a hole,” said Lake Gibson coach Keith DeMyer. “But we couldn't stop the run all night, and we just made too many mistakes.Winter Haven ran for 236 yards, including Javeon Marlow's 20-yard run for the first touchdown and a 49-yard run by Jerome Arius for the final touchdown of the game.After falling behind 21-0, Lake Gibson scored on Hunter Orem's 39-yard pass to Alan Anderson midway through the third quarter, and on a Derrien Bomar's 49-yard run with a fumble recovery late in the same period.Lake Gibson will play at home against Fort Lauderdale Dillard next Friday while Winter Haven travels to Ridge Community.
LAKELAND — Kathleen didn't let an injury to an offensive starter get in the way of a win.
Despite losing starting running back Izayah Riettie to a dislocated shoulder early in the first quarter, Kathleen used two big special teams plays and a defensive touchdown to win its season opener 27-19 over Lake Gibson at Johnnie Johnson Stadium.
"Izayah's all right," Kathleen coach Irving Strickland said. "He was able to go back in, took a lick on his shoulder and we just held him out. We're going to get him evaluated tomorrow."
Riettie put his team up by a touchdown before his departure. The senior back reached the end zone from 6 yards out, topping a three-play, 16-yard series that started after a botched snap on a punt deep in Lake Gibson territory.
Riettie went out on the next series but backup Victor Austin filled in just fine. Austin piled up 57 yards on 12 carries.
"Victor came in and did a great job and so did Jules St. G by running the football," Strickland said. "When one of your brothers goes down, somebody else has got to step up."
The Red Devils kept up the pressure on the Braves by going up two touchdowns on a 26-yard scoring catch by Marquis Zimmerman from St. G.
Lake Gibson rallied to make it 14-6 on a Derrien Bomar 2-yard run, but a big return on the kickoff by Shelton McNeal gave Kathleen great field position. It paid off with a 31-yard, third-down touchdown run by St. G to put the Red Devils (1-0) up 20-6 at halftime.
Kathleen got the ball to start the second half and Lake Gibson's defense held strong, stuffing the Red Devils on fourth and short deep in Braves' territory. A miscue on the ensuing possession all but sealed the game for Kathleen as Larry Tobias stepped in front of a short out-route pass by Hunter Orem and took it 25 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-6 Kathleen.
Lake Gibson fought back, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including one on a tipped fourth-down pass that fell into the arms of Anthony Llosa in the end zone with 1:22 left. Lake Gibson went for the onsides kick but the ball went out of bounds and Kathleen was able to run out the clock.
"We're still making the same mistakes," Lake Gibson coach Keith DeMyer said. "We're not being physical on defense and we only played a half again. You can't beat teams like we play by just playing a half."
Dreadnaughts wear down Braves in kickoff classic
LAKELAND — Lakeland's heralded offense is led by highly touted Division I prospects like A.J. Davis, Tariq Young and James Robinson — when he returns from injury — but if there was a statement from Thursday night's kickoff classic, it was this: Don't overlook the defense.
"Personally, I think the defense is a little underrated," Lakeland defensive end Matt Kramer said.
It won't be with more performances like this. The Dreadnaughts shut down the Braves after the first quarter, holding them to just 11 yards and in the second half, en route to a 27-6 victory at Bryant Stadium.
"Half our success is conditioning," Kramer said. "We worked our butts off in the offseason and ran and ran and ran, and that's what it really ended up being. They came out fresh and ready to go, and we just wore them down."
Lakeland forced four turnovers, three by the defense and one by special teams, that stopped any momentum Lake Gibson might have had early. The Braves took the opening kickoff and drove to the 9 before quarterback Hunter Orem fumbled the ball away on the 5.
On its second drive, Lake Gibson drove 72 yards and Derrien Bomar scored from the one. Orem's 44-yard completion to Dariaze Kirkland set up the score.
Lakeland answered with a 59-yard drive that was started with a 12-yard run by Tariq Young and a ended with Xavier Allen's 1-yard run.
The second half was all Lakeland with A.J. Davis providing the big play and the knockout punch. Davis, who rushed for 117 yards on 17 carries, gave Lakeland the lead for good with a 65-yard reception with most of the yards coming after short pass near the line of scrimmage.
Lakeland, which gained 110 yards in the first half, had nearly 200 yards in the second half to pull away.
"I thought we had good effort," Lakeland coach Bill Castle said. "We were ragged and made a lot of mistakes, but it's a preseason game. I thought our defense played together good and played hard. They pursued to the ball real good. I thought our conditioning was good."
Lake Gibson let its frustration show in the second half with two unsportsmanlike penalties, not including a third that was offset with one by Lakeland, and one Brave was ejected.
Davis and added a touchdown, and Ervin Micheal also scored in the second half. Davis helped put the game away in the fourth quarter by rushing six times for 64 yards on the final scoring drive.
"A.J. is one of those who seems to get better as he goes," Castle said.
BRAVES CENTER COMMITS TO FLORIDA STATE
Lake Gibson offensive lineman Baveon Johnson has always been a fan of Florida State, and now he's one step closer to playing for the Seminoles. On Tuesday night, the junior committed to FSU, another highlight in what has been a big offseason for him.
"It has always been my favorite team, and I've always been a fan," Johnson said. "Whenever I went up there, it felt like family."
Johnson, who also received offers from Miami and Florida, said the only other school he seriously considered was Kentucky but choosing FSU was an easy decision. He plans to attend the Seminoles' spring game on April 11.
Johnson piled up college offers, and this offseason, he has impressed coaches and scouts at camps to earn invitations to prestigious camps and all-star games.Johnson is ranked the 83rd overall prospect in the nation by Rivals for the Class of 2016 and the third-ranked offensive guard. This past weekend, he received an invite to the Under Armour Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge that will be held in June in Baltimore after being named offensive line MVP at the Rivals.com Camps Series in Miami. Only 100 football prospects from around the nation are invited to the event.
Earlier this month, Johnson was named offensive line MVP at the Nike Regional Combine, which earned him an invitation to The Opening, a camp that will be held July 5-10 in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike headquarters. The event will be televised on ESPN.
Being named MVP at the two camps was unexpected, he said.
"I did surprise me," Johnson said. "I just had to go out and work hard. I expected some recognition, but I didn't expect to be named MVP."
Johnson also received invitations to play in two all-star games, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Under Armour All-America Game.With all the accolades coming his way,
Johnson is trying to stay focused on working out, improving his grades and preparing for the ACT.
"I'm just taking it one step at a time," he said.
Johnson isn't the only Lake Gibson lineman garnering attention this offseason. Three-year starter Michael Wiggs, a 6-4, 280-pound offensive tackle, has offers from Florida Atlantic and South Alabama.
On the defensive side, defensive lineman Keyshon Camp (6-4, 270) has offers from Miami, USC, Florida and Alabama. He is considered a three-star recruit by Rivals.
- THE LEDGER
REUBEN JONES COMMITS TO WOLVERINES
LAKELAND | A picture may be worth a 1,000 words but apparently a cardboard cutout is worth two very important ones — Reuben Jones' signature.
The Lake Gibson senior defensive end Saturday became Jim Harbaugh's first recruit at the University of Michigan, giving his verbal commitment to the Wolverines' new head coach and staff during a dinner at Michigan Stadium.
“It was the feeling and the atmosphere there,” Jones said. “All that tradition and then you get to go out and play in front of 115,000 fans. That aspect helped me pick. I was talking to players and coaches, and they just believe in each other.”
Jones, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound, two-time PolkPreps.com All-County first-team selection, said he made his decision — which is grabbing CBSSports.com national headlines — when he walked into a room during his official visit Saturday and saw a life-size cardboard cutout of 1991 Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard.
“I saw that No. 21 (Howard) cutout striking the Heisman Trophy pose, and he won it and then I kept seeing it. When I'm done, I want people to say that is Reuben Jones' cutout. At Michigan, when a player puts his mind to it, he does it,” Jones said.
“I want to be the best defensive player that ever stepped on the Michigan field. I told the coaches I will outwork everybody in the weight room. Lakeland players play with a chip on their shoulders, and I told the defensive coordinator, Coach (D.J.) Durkin, I play with a big chip.”
Jones, who de-committed from Nebraska on Tuesday, said he announced his final decision Saturday night at Michigan Stadium before the Wisconsin-Michigan basketball game.
“Coach Harbaugh sat down with me at dinner and I felt like I was a high priority to him and we just talked. Then jokingly, Coach Durkin said, 'We can make you a great player, unless you're scared.' Then I just said, 'I commit to the University of Michigan.'
“Coach Harbaugh went up to the microphone and told everyone I was the first commit, and everyone was freaking and clapping, and then he made me speak and I was freaking.”
Lake Gibson head coach Keith DeMyer said Harbaugh visited Lake Gibson on Tuesday to meet Jones and he was pretty sure — after sitting in on the meeting — that his star recruit would choose Michigan, but he didn't want to influence any decision.
“They will utilize what Reuben does best, which is being quick off the ball and getting to the quarterback,” DeMyer said. “Reuben has a 3.0 core GPA with a 3.2 overall. He has been an honors and AP student, so he is up for the challenge.”
Jones also racked up 64 tackles — 29 solo — this past season and said the Michigan fight song, “Hail to the Victors,” sent chills up his spine.
“It does, and now I'm trying to learn all the lyrics.
After Jones committed, Zach Gentry, a four-star quarterback from New Mexico, who was verbally committed to Texas, flipped his decision to Michigan as well.
“When you see something that is going to be good, you want to be on the front end of it. They have tradition, academics and the biggest stadium,” Jones said.
- THE LEDGER
"ONCE A BRAVE, ALWAYS A BRAVE"
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2012 CLASS 6ADISTRICT 10 CHAMPIONS 2010 & 2009CLASS 4A DISTRICT 8 CHAMPIONS
Located in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in all of college football, Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland, Florida boasts a powerful tradition that includes eight regional finals appearances, two trips to the state championship game and back-to-back district titles in 2009 and 2010.
"ONCE A BRAVE, ALWAYS A BRAVE"
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7007 N. Socrum Loop Rd.
Lakeland, FL 33809