Player of the Pine Belt: East Marion LB Christopher ‘Deuce’ Johnson
COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - Playing football for the smallest high school in Marion County, senior middle linebacker Christopher “Deuce” Johnson and his Eagle teammates have been sweating through the summer, taking a potential disadvantage into top-shelf motivation.
“We’re always the underdogs, always getting overlooked,” said Johnson, who will be among only a handful of seniors returning to East Marion High School this fall. “We’re already getting overlooked because of last year’s season.”
The Eagles finished 3-9 in 2020, securing the second seed in Region 8-2A at 3-1, but picking up two wins on COVID-19 forfeits. East Marion dropped its final three games, including a 35-0 loss to a visiting Union High School in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
But Johnson said he is expecting better days ahead as the Eagles head into year two with Brad Hughes at the helm.
“We’re going to come out and compete because of all the hard work we’ve been doing,” Johnson said. “I feel like we’re going to come and ball out this season.
“This year, we’ve really been putting in the work every single day that we can get out here - rain, hail, sleet or snow. We’re really trying to get (the work) in. This Mississippi heat is no joke, so if you come out here, you really better be ready to work, and that’s what I love about these guys.”
Hughes took over after Kevin Jackson departed on the heels of 2019′s 8-4 season and two-game split in the playoffs, He said he likes what he’s seen during his second summer with the Eagles.
“When I came in, we set out expectations, and they followed those expectations,” Hughes said. “We’re just hoping this year, in year two, to put a few more ‘W’s’ on the board.”
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Johnson will play a large role in that effort, calling the defensive shots on the field for the Eagles.
“I’ve always had that dawg in me since I was little,” Johnson said. “I’m aggressive, always have been physical, always been rough.”
Hughes said Johnson epitomizes a Marion County football player.
“Kids in Marion County are resilient, “Hughes said. “They’re tough. They don’t mind putting in the work, and I believe a lot of that goes back to the community, to the homes. They’re taught right. They’re taught to work hard.
“Deuce is just a great kid. He’s the kid you would draw up if you had to pick the ideal-type guy. He’s a leader in the classroom and a leader out here. It’s about like having a coach out there on the field. He’s a smart guy who’s going to make a lot of plays.”
The Eagles were shifted from a region that included the likes of traditional foes like Collins and North Forrest high schools to the more unfamiliar West Lincoln and Bogue Chitto of Region 7-2A.
But Hughes said East Marion would just continue to grind and put the work in and, hopefully, see the results.”
“We’ve aged and we grew and we got to know this team a little better and we’ve got some things in place that we are going to be effective for us,” Hughes said.
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