HOUSTON – Josh Johnson had been told all year to limit his running.
The senior quarterback was told by coaches to keep his eyes downfield, not to scramble as much and throw it away if nothing was available. A year after running 178 times for 1,137 yards during the season, the Second Baptist School coach Terry Pirtle wanted to save his legs for a potential playoff run.
In the season finale against Lutheran South, the Second Baptist School coaching staff started to open up his run plays.
Against Brentwood Christian – Johnson was fully unleashed throwing for 210 yards and three scores and rushing for another 298 yards and three scores on the way to a 43-29 opening-round victory.
"Friday night I think he showed how explosive he can be as a dual-threat quarterback," Pirtle said. "That's another weapon we're going to have in the playoffs that teams have not seen this year from him."
After watching him run wild last season, Pirtle knew what a Josh Johnson incredible run looks like.
On the opening play of the playoff game last week, Johnson busted loose, avoiding a few defenders and never broke stride on the way to an 82-yard touchdown scamper.
When he got over to the sidelines, Pirtle jokingly asked him if he was a little tired because he hadn't run as much this year as in year's past. Johnson replied – a little bit.
"We've got to get him back into running shape," Pirtle said. "Last year he ran 178 times on the season and going into the playoffs he had only run the ball 30 times … We've got to get his stamina built up."
Not running the ball as much this season opened up his passing game, where Johnson has thrown 35 touchdowns in 2019 and also forced the running backs to step up.
Eli Smith and Everett Skillern did just that to help him stay in the pocket more and not have to run as much.
"It made us develop our running game through our running backs," Pirtle said. "Eli Smith has done a tremendous job this year running. So, we've found a running back in him and Everett Skillern has done a great job as well. Last year we were running Josh most of the time, not trusting our running back game as much but now that's allowed us to develop our running back to go with Josh.
"We feel really good going in now that Josh can run the ball but Everett and Smith can run it now too."
Now, in the playoffs, Smith and Skillern will still be used but then sprinkle in a fresh Johnson makes their rushing attack even that more dynamic.
Opening up the running portion of his game, Johnson has enjoyed that, especially since his legs feel extremely fresh heading into the second week of the playoffs.
"It feels pretty good to be running more frequently because coming into the regular season I was focusing primarily on being a better passer since teams knew I could run because of what I did last year," Johnson said. "So, since I have been passing pretty well this year and I have been running less, my legs are fresh and are ready to go for this state championship run we are about to make."
Last year, Johnson finished with 1,481 yards passing and 1,137 yards rushing. The dual-threat quarterback has thrown for a lot more yards than rushed this year but showed Friday night just how dynamic he can be.
So, are colleges taking notice?
Pirtle believes things will pick up for Johnson on the recruiting front the next few weeks with some college teams' seasons winding down and if he was in their position would take Johnson in a heartbeat.
"After knowing him for two years, I'll take him at whatever level I'm coaching in college for sure," Pirtle said. "He's a special kid that works and works extra. He studies the game and has a passion for it. He's improved so much at throwing the ball in the year we've had him. That young man can do special things … He's definitely a guy that I can see walking on and making a big squad and working his way onto the depth chart."
HOUSTON – Nate Dyman is having fun.
The senior linebacker in his first season at Second Baptist School has quickly become a key cog in the defensive unit that has allowed just 60 points all year, including three shutouts.
"It's been great, I started off and I didn't really know anybody," Dyman, who has an offer from Air Force, said. "I came in at the end of the summer and everybody's just been really accepting of me. So, I started off well and it's been up from there. A little bit shaky at the start of the year, learning all the plays and figuring out how we do it over here. But I think I figured it out and it's paying off on the field."
Heading into last week, during which the seniors were honored at halftime, Dyman had been named the linebacker of the week already five times this year.
"He's done a great job this year," Second Baptist School coach Terry Pirtle said. "Nate's been a refreshing addition to our team this year. He just loves the game, is passionate about it, he wants to be perfect every day and practice hard every day."
That love and passion for the game comes through.
Dyman has a nose for the football, hits hard and is a force on the field. Through it all, Dyman makes sure to have fun.
"I'm having a blast," Dyman said. "You see me dancing around and everything. That's the only way I know how to play football. You just have to have fun with it because you only get a certain number of snaps and you never know which one will be your last."
The Second Baptist School enters this week seeking its first perfect regular season since 1999 – which was the last time the program won a state title.
"It's been amazing, I haven't really had success like this yet," Dyman said. "I'm enjoying it right there with them."