Johnson Jr.’s late TD catch lifts Wissahickon over Hatboro-Horsham

HORSHAM >> Marice Johnson Jr. was prepared for the moment.

“I’ve been practicing that for a long time,” the Wissahickon senior wide receiver said. “I’ve been playing football for a long time too. So, all of that goes into it.”

With the Trojans trailing host Hatboro-Horsham 12-7 late in the fourth quarter Friday night. Johnson Jr. put all that work to use – leaping in front of a Hatters defender to snag an Aidan Defeo pass over the middle before racing down the right side of the field to the end zone with just 1:35 remaining.

“I was just hoping I didn’t get hawked,” Johnson Jr. said. “I almost tripped, I thought somebody would of got the gain on me but no, I pulled through.”

Johnson Jr.’s 61-yard touchdown catch came only 19 seconds after Hatboro-Horsham took the lead in the Suburban One League nonconference contest. The Wissahickon defense proceeded to hold off the Hatters on the ensuing drive and the Trojans left Steinly Stadium with the 14-12 victory.

“He’s a senior, he’s been a part of our program all four years, we knew he has that type of ability,” said Trojans coach Bruce Fleming of Johnson Jr. “And this year he’s taking it upon himself to make plays for our team.”

Johnson Jr. finished with three receptions – all in the second half – for 144 yards, junior quarterback Defeo threw for 214 yards while sophomore running back Kyle Lehman ran for 116 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries as Wissahickon (1-1) rallied for a second straight win over its former conference rival.

“Watching film we knew we had a chance against this team as long we cut down on our mistakes that we did the first game,” Fleming said. “So all week we preached about not worrying about the referees, just playing football and just playing our game out here. Guys did that.

“A little adversity, a little sloppy at some points but it’s second game of action after a long layoff, no scrimmage. We’re still fine-tuning the small things to get better.”

Both teams turned the ball over three times but each found an offensive spark in the fourth.

Trailing 7-6 with 4:31 left, Hatboro-Horsham (0-2, 0-1 SOL Continental) took over at its own 36 after stopping the Trojans on fourth down and marched 64 yards on seven plays – Omar Ali’s 25-yard touchdown run giving the Hatters their first lead with 1:54 left. HH came up empty on the two-point conversion, leaving the margin 12-7.

“He’s our workhouse,” said Hatboro-Horsham first-year coach Ken Remaily of Ali. “He always tries to get the extra yard. He’s our go-to back and when he’s going, we go. And with everybody upfront, we got a good push with those guys and they’re a big, strong physical football team. Our guys upfront started getting pushes, started wearing them down a little bit and we were able to move the ball.”

The Trojans, however, answered on the opening play of the next drive. Defeo’s throw on 1st-and-10 from the Wissahickon 39 looked in line to be intercepted by Ali but Johnson Jr raced in front of the HH defensive back to make a jumping catch and with open field in from of him completed the 61-yard TD reception as the Trojans went up 14-12 with 95 seconds left.

“They were playing me off the entire time in that three-man, in trips,” Johnson Jr. said. “I mean, I was stressing my quarterback the entire time, I was telling him I was open on that exact play and he hit me on it in the end.”

The Hatters converted a pair of third downs on their final drive – the second on a pass interference penalty to put them on the Wissahickon 36. But the series stalled there and HH turned the ball over on downs with 13.1 seconds remaining after getting flagged for intentional grounding on 4th-and-9 at the 35.

“Omar got a good bead on it – things happen,” said Remaily of Wissahickon’s go-ahead TD. “I thought our kids played unbelievably well tonight but we make mistakes – sure. Coaches always say you got from the first week to the second week and you improve and I thought our team, these 37 young men went from last week to this week and I saw great strides and we just need to keep staying the course.

“And the little things that we need to tweak, we’re going to fix them. That’s on me and I need to keep going with it and we’ll be fine.”

Ali had 94 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries while quarterback Markel Robert-Jackson ran 23 times for 89 yards and a TD – a 47-yard score that pulled the Hatters within 7-6 at 4:58 in the third.

Defeo was 9-of-18 passing for 214 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Trojans, who play their first SOL American Conference game 7 p.m. Friday at league newcomer New Hope-Solebury.

“It’s one of those things where I think in this 2020 COVID season – if that’s what we want to call it –  every team is going to have those moments of good plays, bad plays and everyone’s going to keep burning to get better at it,” Fleming said. “For us this allowed us to really learn what we are made of. That we can suffer some adversity but come back.”

Hatboro-Horsham looks to give Remaily his first win as it returns to SOL Continental competition with a road contest at Quakertown 7 p.m. Friday.

Wissahickon grabbed a 7-0 lead on its first possession, Lehman taking a run left then down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown at 8:01 in the opening quarter.

The Hatters had a chance at points late in the first half – stopping the Trojans on a fake punt run to take over at the Wissahickon 43 with 1:35 before the break. A Robert-Jackson 8-yard run put HH eight yards from the goal line but a holding call the next play then a lost fumble the following down had the Trojans still leading 7-0 at halftime.

Johnson Jr.’s first catch of the night went for 44 yards on 3rd-and-15 to put Wissahickon at the HH 41. But three plays later the drive ended when the Hatters’ Reda Oueldaissa intercepted a screen pass.

Hatboro-Horsham, however, fumbled the ball away the next play and on 1st-and-10 at the Hatters 48 Defeo connected with Johnson Jr. for a 39-yard completion down the nine. But Wissahickon did not add to its lead on the drive – a fumble on 3rd-and-Goal at the one landing into Oueldaissa’s hands.

The Hatters found their running game on the next possession, a seven-play 91-yard drive capped by Robert-Jackson sprinting up the middle and through the Wissahickon defense for a 47-yard TD at 4:58, cutting the HH deficit to 7-6.

With 10:25 in the fourth, Hatboro-Horsham began a drive at Trojans’ 32 but went three-and-out. Starting at their own 10 Wissahickon moved the ball to the HH 32 but was stopped on a 4th-and-5 and Hatboro-Horsham took over at its 36 at 4:31.

The Hatters ran the ball on their next seven plays to take a 12-7 lead – Ali going around the right side and into the end zone from 25 yards out with 1:54 remaining.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply