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High school football notebook: Jeannette DE Johnson makes quick impact

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, 6:51 p.m.
Jeannette's Anthony Johnson (80) wags a finger against Clairton in the second quarter on Friday Oct. 27, 2017 at Clairton.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Jeannette's Anthony Johnson (80) wags a finger against Clairton in the second quarter on Friday Oct. 27, 2017 at Clairton.
Penn-Trafford's Cam Laffoon (9) keeps and runs the ball against Fox Chapel in the second quarter in a WPIAL playoff game Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, at Penn-Trafford.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Penn-Trafford's Cam Laffoon (9) keeps and runs the ball against Fox Chapel in the second quarter in a WPIAL playoff game Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, at Penn-Trafford.
Franklin Regional's Bryce Lauer practices Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at Franklin Regional.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Bryce Lauer practices Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at Franklin Regional.
Kiski Area's Drew DiNunzio-Biss (25), on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016.
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Drew DiNunzio-Biss (25), on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016.
Ligonier Valley's Aaron Tutino (6) runs the ball against Homer-Center in the second quarter on Friday Oct. 06, 2017 at Homer-Central.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley's Aaron Tutino (6) runs the ball against Homer-Center in the second quarter on Friday Oct. 06, 2017 at Homer-Central.

Updated 23 hours ago

Jeannette knew junior Anthony Johnson could make an impact on the football field this season. But his raw skills needed to catch up to his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame.

The prospect of that happening had coaches eager with anticipation. Jeannette coach Roy Hall was a harbinger of Johnson's prospects.

“We knew the potential he had,” Hall said. “He has the size, the tools and the work ethic.”

When he took up football again for the first time since seventh grade, Johnson was like a NASCAR driver with a heavy foot but no race experience. He just wanted to go fast.

The rules of the road — and the caution flags — were learned in time.

“His motor never stops,” Hall said. “He's going to end up earning himself a scholarship with the way he's playing.”

A lot has changed since summer workouts. Johnson looks like a football player now, and that has caught the collective attention of Jeannette's opponents.

The reward: Johnson was named the Class A Eastern Conference Lineman of the Year. He has 96 tackles and has wreaked havoc at defensive end and as a down lineman, as evidenced by his 25 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles.

“In all my years, I've never had a D-lineman lead the team in tackles,” Hall said.

Johnson is a talented basketball player and is eager to begin a new season in a few weeks. But hoops might have to wait if Jeannette keeps winning.

“Hard work pays off, I guess,” Johnson said. “I put in the extra reps in practice. I never thought I would like to play (football) this much. I just wanted to run after the ball when I started out. But if you don't know the game, it's hard.”

Jeannette loves to give Johnson the green light to chase quarterbacks but sometimes has to settle him down.

“He's been a blessing,” Jeannette line coach Trevor Petrillo said. “He'd be on the sled after practice, and we'd have to make him leave. It's all about effort and work ethic with him. He wants to get better. It's tough to corral him.

“His biggest attribute is that every one of his favorite players play on this team. He roots for everyone. He's a great team kid.”

Laffoon focused

Penn-Trafford senior quarterback Cam Laffoon feels for his brother, Brett, who also played under center for the Warriors before moving on to Grove City.

Earlier this year, Brett called it quits just a few games into his sophomore season in college after suffering another serious concussion.

Cam wants to carry on his family name — a third brother, Brandon, was a tackle and defensive end for Penn-Trafford in 2011 — but doesn't make it his sole motivation.

And his brother's decision to protect his brain does not change the way Cam plays. The dual-threat QB said he has not played tentative.

He recently topped 3,000 passing yards for his career.

“(Brett's decision) doesn't really have any affect me,” he said. “If I have to take a hit, I'll take a hit. I am focused on this playoff run. It's more of a P-T family thing than a (Laffoon) thing. Our expectations are to make it to Heinz Field each year. Anything less than that is a failure.”

Brett Laffoon was the quarterback the last time the Warriors reached Heinz Field, two years ago.

Lauer gets records

Senior linebacker Bryce Lauer left his mark on the field and on the record books at Franklin Regional. Lauer (6-2, 240) finished as the program's single-season and career tackles leader.

His 161 tackles broke the season mark by four, and his 368 career stops shattered the old record of 293. Both marks were held by Brett Zanotto.

Lauer broke the season mark in three less games than Zanotto played.

McKillop's record broken

Kiski Area junior Drew Dinunzio-Biss quietly had one of the most productive seasons in the WPIAL. The middle linebacker was credited with 111 solo tackles, which raised his career total to 181. That mark broke former standout Scott McKillop's mark of 161. McKillop went on to play at Pitt.

Dinunzio-Biss, a starter since halfway through his freshman season, still has a season to go.

Tutino nears 1,000

Ligonier Valley wide receiver Aaron Tutino is closing in on 1,000 yards receiving for the second straight season. The big-play junior has 45 catches for 917 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Rams (11-0). That's 20.4 yards per catch.

And Ligonier Valley has thrown to more receivers this season.

Last year, he had 55 grabs for 1,183 yards and 18 scores on the way to an all-state season.

Tutino has taken unofficial visits to Ohio and Buffalo.

Extra points

Since 2014, Jeannette is 42-7. Six of the losses are to Clairton. The other one came against Neshannock in the 2014 playoffs. ... Penn-Trafford's senior class finished 15-1 in home games at Warrior Stadium. ... Belle Vernon is in the semifinals for the first time since 2000. ... Norwin junior Jayvon Thrift will visit Syracuse this weekend.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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