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CE King QB Denim Johnson may look like a tenured vet running the Panthers' offense, but this is his first year playing varsity high school football.
Johnson’s story started at Atascocita High School where he played his freshman and sophomore season.
Before his junior year, Johnson transferred to C.E. King where he thought he would be the starting QB. Just before the first game, he was ruled ineligible by the UIL. It just so happened to be his birthday.
“Grinding and preparing for my junior year and hearing the news was definitely rough for me” Johnson said. “One thing I can say is that it taught me a lot and made me a whole different person, because I knew my path was going to be a little more difficult.”
Good things happen to those who wait... The senior has made the most of his chance to play, throwing for 2,023 yards, 14 TDs and rushing for 447 yards and two TDs.
Now he finds himself on a huge stage, leading CE King to the Regional Final at NRG Stadium this Friday.
The Panthers are playoff-prepared having run the gauntlet of North Shore, Atascocita and Summer Creek in district and Allen in the preseason.
“It was hard for sure," he said. "You know everyone wants to come into the season, go undefeated and win district, but things didn’t work that way. We didn’t let that stop us from wanting to achieve that goal that we set during offseason... during the hot summer days. We looked at the playoffs as if it was a new season and a fresh start, and right now we’re 3-0 and it feels good.”
The Panthers are the definitely the underdogs going against the nine-time State Champ Katy, but this is why the games are played.
“We want to shock the world," he said. "We know what we are in for and we are just taking it day-by-day in practice. We are focusing on what is in front of us and not the side noise. It's all about focus and heart. If we want to beat them, we have to do our jobs and respond back well to adversity.”
Fort Bend Marshall was hanging around the Crosby High School parking lot, preparing to load the bus to return to the southwest side of town after a 27-21 (OT) loss at the hands of the Cougars earlier this season.
Coach James Williams looked stunned and disappointed.
“You never want to lose a game to learn a lesson, but you always have to learn lessons from things that don’t go your way,” Williams said. “It served this team well, got us refocused and let our guys know that we aren’t going to beat teams without the proper preparation.”
Since then, the Buffs have run off 11-straight wins, destroying teams by a margin of 513 to 67.
The offense got its legs under first-year QB Jordon Davis, who has thrown for over 2,300 yards and 27 scores. He has rushed for over 800 yards as well.
“That’s a story right there,” Williams said. “Ja’Koby Banks (UH-commit) had a phenomenal year at QB last year, scoring 39 touchdowns. He was very unselfish to back up and let Jordon run the offense this year, which freed him up to do more things for our football team from playing RB, WR and returning kicks. Once we found our identity with Jordon, we really started to click.”
The defense has flexed as well, giving up less than 10 points per game.
“M-Block football is about being physical and that is what we do,” Williams said. “It’s still a line of scrimmage game and it all starts up front with us with Zachary Chapman (TCU-commit), Trent Thomas and Logan Granville. That allows Jordan Sample (Arkansas State-commit) to flow to the ball and our secondary to create turnovers.”
With the offense finding their footing and the defense punishing opponents, the Buffs find themselves in the Regional Finals against Port Neches-Groves at Galena Park ISD Stadium on Friday night. FB Marshall beat the Indians 35-14 in district play earlier in the season.
“We are both very different teams now,” Williams said. “They do a tremendous job coaching and we are going to need to play disciplined football to win. I’m excited about where we are, and these guys deserve the success they get. They have put in so much hard work. That’s our culture.”
Texas A&M star Devon Achane stopped by practice this week to check out the Buffs as they entered the Regional Finals.
"It was great to talk to him and hang out," Williams said. "I'm just so proud of that young man and to see how he's developed. It's amazing what he's been able to do against SEC competition."
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