Johnson throws 3 TDS, Southside wins spring game

Published 10:15 pm Friday, May 5, 2017

Football season was back in Selma on Friday night, at least for one night, as Southside took on A.L. Johnson in a spring jamboree. Even Mother Nature got in on the act, as temperatures dropped into the mid 50s, forcing jackets, sweaters and other cold weather clothing back out of the closet.

The calendar read May, but with football being played and the weather outside it felt more like October.

The chilly weather didn’t seem to affect Southside. The Panthers scored five touchdowns on offense in a 32-8 victory over A.L. Johnson. The Eagles lost three fumbles and also threw an interception.

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“I felt like once the first couple of plays got in, our guys got to rolling,” said Southside coach Daniel Flowers. “I saw a lot from my skill guys.”

Southside quarterback Malik Johnson, who took over the starting role this spring, showed his ability both passing and running the ball. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 158 yards. He had a 70-yard touchdown run where he tucked it and ran on a pass play and a 48-yard rush where he weaved back and forth through defenders before finding an open lane for a touchdown.

Johnson threw two first quarter touchdown passes to wideout Keshawn Arrington. The first was a 14-yard strike and the second was for 10 yards.

G’Neil Johnson, who moved from quarterback to wide receiver this year, caught Malik’s third touchdown throw. G’Neil caught a pass on a slant and broke free for a 79-yard touchdown.

All three touchdown receptions had to be a welcome sight for Southside football fans given the departure of all-state football player DeQuan Johnson, who signed with Alabama State.

“We lost DeQuan Johnson last year, and I was wondering who was going to step up,” Flowers said. “I felt Keshawn played a great game. I saw some great catches from G’Neil. I saw a lot of guys doing something to pick up for what we lost last year.”

A.L. Johnson scored its lone touchdown on a Malik Johnson fumble in the third quarter.

The Eagles best offensive possession reached the Southside 10-yard line, but Panthers’ defensive back Joshua Thomas intercepted a pass on fourth down to give Southside the ball back.

“In an hour and 10-minute game — that’s half a game — we put up 32 points,” Flowers said. “I feel like another half of that, if we go no huddle, we were eventually going to wear those guys down. The more they got wore down, the more we can start scoring.”

Flowers said after the first series of the game, when even the referees are adjusting back to the speed of the game, he liked the tempo from his offense.

He also liked the way his defense, which must replace graduating linebacker Ke’Andrae Rutledge, held its own at the biggest moments. Flowers was even OK with the chilly weather.

“It feels like a playoff game,” Flowers said. “I’ve got a full sweat suit on. It doesn’t feel like a spring game. It feels like a November playoff football game.”

In only a few months, the Panthers could be playing in a playoff game in November. That’s the team’s hope.

Southside went 7-4 last season and made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The Panthers hope to replicate that success next season.