Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

Flip no fluke for SportsCenter highlight star Malik Johnson

Highlight-reel flip is no fluke

Malik Johnson spends a lot of time on acrobatic moves. He practices back flips, front flips, at home or at football practice.

"I usually try to do them a few times every day," Johnson said.

That practice paid off on Friday night when the Alonso High running back was able to land on his feet — and on ESPN's SportsCenter — after flying through the air on a highlight-worthy play (see tampabay.com/sports/hometeam for video).

It happened in the third quarter against rival Sickles. Johnson took off on a fake punt, tried to avoid a tackle and went to the air. He flipped, landed on his feet and kept going.

The play was caught on video by WFLA's Paul Ryan and quickly went viral. The play was sent to SportsCenter and was No. 1 on the program's top 10 plays of the night.

"Malik is going to be special," Ravens coach Brian Emanuel said. "I think he's going to be one of the best running backs in Hillsborough County."

Johnson, a sophomore, did not play last season to focus on grades. He was quickly inserted into the starting lineup this season and does a little of everything for Alonso, including punt.

And now he has the green light on fakes whenever he sees an opening — or a camera.

"There probably were not a lot of people who knew about Malik," Emanuel said. "I'm pretty sure they do now."

Team of the Week: Wiregrass Ranch

The Bulls looked lost in their preseason game against Nature Coast, falling 27-7. The offense sputtered and the defense had a hard time stopping the run. Then the regular season started and it seems as if the team figured everything out as Wiregrass Ranch stomped Zephyrhills 43-8. The Bulls scored 22 points in the second quarter and never looked back. The running attack of DaDa McGee and Chase Oliver combined for 289 yards and four touchdowns. McGee had 209 of those yards himself. It seems as if Chris Faddoul has settled in as the starting quarterback after a slow start. And the defense played well all night. It was Wiregrass Ranch's first victory against Zephyrhills since 2010. Overall, that's a good opener for a team that coach Mark Kantor said was "in a fog" just a week ago.

Player of the Week: Bryce Miller, East Lake

Last year was supposed to be Bryce Miller's time to shine. He finally had the spotlight after playing in the shadows of Division I-A receivers Artavis Scott (Clemson) and George Campbell (FSU) his first two seasons. But Miller had to battle through a series of injuries as a junior, starting with a fractured collarbone in last year's season-opening loss to Palm Harbor University. Now healthy, Miller showed what he can do in Friday's rematch with the Hurricanes. He had five catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles got payback in a wild 38-35 win.

Coach of the Week: Jayson Roberts, Tampa Bay Tech

Since taking over the Titans in 2011, Jayson Roberts has built a consistent playoff contender. Tampa Bay Tech has made the playoffs four of the past five seasons and reached the region semifinals three times. The Titans typically start well and finish the season strong under Roberts. On Friday, they won their third straight opener, beating Jefferson 25-20. The Dragons entered with a roster full of big-time college prospects. But Tampa Bay Tech's defense was relentless, recording two interceptions and allowing Jefferson quarterback Cade Weldon to complete just 8 of 32 passes.

Injury update

Armwood running back Brian Snead left in the second quarter against Plant City with a back injury.

Hawks coach Sean Callahan said he was unsure the extent of the injury and would know more after Snead has an MRI next week. It's a bye week for Armwood.

Snead, a junior who has committed to Ohio State, rushed for 1,227 yards last season. The Hawks have a lot of depth at running back. Erin Collins, a North Carolina State recruit, handled the bulk of the rushing load against the Raiders and finished with 131 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-16 win.

     
           
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