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story.lead_photo.caption Little Rock Catholic sophomore running back Samy Johnson rushed for 357 yards and five touchdowns in a 70-56 victory over Little Rock Central on Nov. 3. For the season, he rushed for more than 1,900 yards and 20 touchdowns. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

Little Rock Catholic Coach John Fogleman said he thought the Rockets would utilize several running backs during the 2016 season rather than relying primarily on one.

Johnson at a glance

SCHOOL Little Rock Catholic

POSITION Running back

HIGHLIGHTS Rushed for 1,936 yards and 20 touchdowns on 211 carries. ... Caught 15 passes for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns. ... Returned 6 kicks for 196 yards and 1 touchdown. ... Rushed for 357 yards and 5 touchdowns at Little Rock Central on Nov. 3.

But by the time 7A-Central Conference play began, sophomore Samy Johnson had emerged as Fogleman’s starting running back, gaining an edge over senior Orlando Henley and junior Luke Schildknecht.

“He surpassed our expectations of him this year,” Fogleman said.

The challenge of being a young running back in one of the state’s toughest conferences didn’t faze Johnson.

“It went pretty good,” Johnson said. “Better than I expected.”

Johnson rushed 211 times for 1,936 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Rockets, and is this year’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps sophomore of the year.

“You never know what to expect from a sophomore and how they’re going to handle it,” Fogleman said. “It was there. You knew he had the talent. It was a matter of being a sophomore and handling the situation.”

Johnson, 5-11, 171 pounds, said he believed the turning point came against Jonesboro on Sept. 18. Johnson rushed for 304 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 69-34 loss to Jonesboro. He had two 80-yard runs and also caught a 51-yard pass.

“I figured out that if I could do the right assignments and follow my blocks, the rest would do itself,” Johnson said.

Johnson rushed for at least 100 years in all seven of Catholic’s conference games. He had two 200-yard performances in 7A-Central play, including 233 yards at Fort Smith Northside on Oct. 7 and 357 yards at Little Rock Central on Nov. 3.

Northside Coach Mike Falleur came away impressed with Johnson’s ability to cut and run in the open field.

“He’s very elusive,” Falleur said.

Now that Johnson has made himself known as one of the state’s top players, Fogleman said he knows that Johnson’s preparation during the offseason will be different than it was going into his sophomore season.

“He’s going to have to hit the weights and carry the load,” Fogleman said. “He’ll have to add some strength and size. He’s going to be the focal point for defenses to stop the run game. He won’t be sneaking up on anybody.”

The Rockets went 3-8, earning the No. 6 seed from the 7A-Central. Johnson rushed for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns before leaving the game in the first half with a shoulder injury. Bentonville won 38-31 in the Class 7A first round Nov. 11.

Johnson said his shoulder is fine now, and he is playing on Catholic’s basketball team.

Johnson said he expects a better season, teamwise, in 2017 for the Rockets.

“We have to keep our head in the game,” Johnson said. “Make the right decisions and believe in yourself.”

Print Headline: ‘Elusive’ Johnson fuels Rockets

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