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Duke Johnson turns in MVP performance in 5A title game, final game for Norland Vikings

ORLANDO -- It wasn't the greatest performance of his career -- far from it actually. But even on a day he fumbled and threw an interception, Duke Johnson was still pretty special in his final game in a Norland Vikings uniform.

Duke JohnsonHe turned in 266 all-purpose yards, five touchdowns and an MVP performance in leading Norland to a 38-0 win over Crawfordville Wakulla in the Class 5A state championship game Friday afternoon at the Citrus Bowl. (P.S. -- Don't mind the fat guy interviewing Duke after the game. Herald's Al Diaz shot it.)

"Today it was totally his show. Whether it was a run, a catch, a straight on return, you don't get any better than that. He's by the far best we've seen in the state this year," said Dwight Thomas, who coached a guy you might have heard of -- Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith at Pensacola Escambia High.

"That stuff he does where he's here one second and then over there the next, you can't emulate it. He's special."

Norland (15-0) probably could have beaten the overmatched War Eagles (12-3) without Johnson (5-9, 182). But the Vikings -- ranked eighth nationally by ESPN -- certainly would not have completed the climb to the crown without him.

Two weeks ago at No. 1-ranked Glades Central, a place no Miami-Dade or Broward team had won in 14 previous playoff trips, Johnson ran for 230 yards and four touchdowns. A week later, he posted the fourth-highest single game performance in Miami-Dade history, rallying his team from a 20-0 deficit at Palmetto by rushing for 375 yards and 3 TDs in a state semifinal win.

All Johnson did Friday was prove to a statewide television audience that hadn't seen him yet beyond grainy YouTube highlights is that he's not only the best present University of Miami coach Al Golden has under his Christmas tree, but one of the best players Dade has ever produced.

Johnson's final senior season rushing stats -- 208 carries, 2,087 yards, 29 TDs -- rank ninth all-time in Dade history. His career rushing numbers -- 504 carries, 5,109 yards, 70 TDs -- rank third all-time. But when you consider he averaged 10.0 yards per carry and had 103 rushing attempts fewer than the great Frank Gore (2,953 yards in 2000) this season, Johnson's performance stands out even more.

"To me, I once thought Duke was the most exciting player I'd ever seen," said Norland athletic director Ira Fluitt, a basketball star during his old playing days at Miami Springs. "But after what he did last week in running for 375 yards I think he's the best player I've ever seen. I'd put him right up there with the greats like Frank Gore, Elvis Peacock and Troy Davis."

Johnson, the state's Class 5A Player of the Year and a finalist for Florida's Mr. Football Award, gave Wakulla's defense credit for making him work for 130 yards on 21 carries. It wasn't until his final carry of the game -- a 40-yard touchdown run with 6:12 remaining where he stiff armed three defenders on his way to the end zone -- that Johnson was able to break a run longer than 15 yards.

Still, he displayed his big play ability plenty. He returned a kickoff following a safety 69 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter, hurdling over and spinning off would-be tacklers in impressive fashion. Later in the fourth quarter, he leaped over two defenders to haul in a 23-yard pass at the Wakulla 2-yard line. It setup his three-yard TD run two plays later.

"Blocking for that guy has been a lot of fun," said Vikings left tackle Ereck Flowers, a 6-6, 315-pound wrecking machine who will follow Johnson to UM. "He's a beast."

Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg said Golden and UM are getting a player "that refuses to lose" and "is going to do what it takes to build that program and help other players around him." Heidelburg said Johnson and linebacker Feddie Davey performed "bed checks" of teammates Thursday night before he could get to it himself.

Johnson wore special black and gold socks and gloves Friday to honor Liberty City Optimist founder, Sam Johnson (no relation), who passed away last Sunday from a heart attack. After the game, he returned to the Vikings bench to find a hat sporting the beak of Hurricanes mascot Sebastian the Ibis waiting for him and put it on.

His mom, Cassandra Prophet-Mitchell, who sat between UM assistants George McDonald and Terry Richardson for most of Friday's game, said there is no other place her son is going but UM.

"Can't wait to get there," Johnson said when asked if he's already thinking about the Canes.

But first, he says, "I'm resting for the next month. Then, it's track season. I want got to get faster."

Comments

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The bloody ABSOLuTE truth hurts, don't it f.i.

bUbba, you be one absolute LAME DELUSIONAL minion. No!

And you be one NAIVE fool, too!

Because the N.C.A.A. is a country club, REPUBLICAN good ol' boy club. That's why the Florida's of the B.C.S. can get away with it all. Eh.

Wow! Me and MAC agree agree once again. Yes, Larry Coker was just as incompetent.
-------------------

Don't FLATTER yourself, FOOl!!

AS LONG AS THEY HAVE A WINNING SEASON AND SHOW PROMISE FOR THINGS TO COME, DOES IT REALLY MATTER TO SOME OF YOU ALL IF THEY GO TO A BOWL GAME OR NOT? WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL. AS LONG AS THEY CAN KNOCK OFF SOME BIG NAME TEAMS ALONG THE WAY, THAT WILL BE BETTER THAN A BOWL GAME. GO CANES, WE LOVE YA.....L.

Dont mess with me you bUbbas or ill start kicking some bloody arse
My minions over at ETOH would never treat me the way you guys are
I demand respect from you Cane rUffians

Macjones you flop worse than a fish put of water and your racist remark against randy was not needed. Randy was a better man than you could ever be

Warning....Warning...MacJones is not who he says he is...he really is a flip flopping Gator making a lot of noise on our Board..Do NOT believe ANYTHING that he writes...
IGNORE his diatribe..until he figures out what is happening..He may not be a man....He is trying to find himself on these boards..
Go 'Canes.
Mac do not ruffle our Cane rUffians..

Hey ex,

Miami's former players have refused to talk to the NCAA. There is no way they go back to 2002 as a result. There will be no "repeat offender" sanctions. Miami may still receive significant penalties, but not like you are implying.

you guys are a bunch of jock-sniffing jerks...you dont know anything about the hard work and dedication of players,,,we still have players, we still have the athletes to compete,,its about will and determination, not the stars, its about discipline and playing with the will to win, not to lose,,we should be better than most of you think. Look at the individual cases, B. Washington mother is not working consistently, and her son has a shot to make 2-5 million dollars over the next 5 years,,,what son aint goiong not take that opportunity...its not about the U, its not about next year, playing for free, its about taking care of your own, and not being concern about what you guys are thinking...

Hey MAC, the NCAA would be your typical socialist Democrats if you were to try and even compare it to a political party. Miami is a private school and FSU and UF are public schools. If the NCAA were Republican then they'd have Miami's back for being a private school that isn't on the guvment dole. Try making more sense you big dummy.

If anything the NCAA is a dictator with a monopoly on CFB which answers to nobody. Do you make everything about race? If you can't get ahead then surely it has nothing to do with smarts or merit it must be race right? I bet you eat the peanuts out of Obama's turds don't you? How come his sorry ass didn't veto that senate bill 1867? Sounds like a dictator to me.

Warning Warning, This 'mac jones' character was spotted tasting man parts in the "fabulous" district. He may pose as a pants inspector, or just blatantly grope your crotch with his mouth. Oops, I meant your 'bloody bUbba crotch'. Leave this blog 'sac jones'. Stop posting comments amongst heterosexuals. Save your tarse tidbits for the fashion district. When I need to know about a sassy new purse for my wife, don't worry I'll come blogging for a flaming pickle taster like yourself. 'sac jones', whoops, I mean 'BLOODY sac jones', the rUffians could care less what you think, and are more worried about the time you spend blogging about a team you hate. Please do all the men here a favor and leave this blog. Return to crocheting your boyfriend a new crotchless thong. BLOODY SAC JONES

Go CANES!!! If we can get rid of the "TROLL" and actually get a pres who is pro-football, we can be back!

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