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Decatur running back Chris Coffey, working away from J.O. Johnson defensive end Jomarcus Savage for a first down, finished with 132 rushing yards and two TDs.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Decatur running back Chris Coffey, working away from J.O. Johnson defensive end Jomarcus Savage for a first down, finished with 132 rushing yards and two TDs.

Taking down No. 1
Decatur celebrates signature win over top-ranked Johnson

By Brooke Milam · 340-2460

HUNTSVILLE — With the rain pouring down, 25 miles from home, the Decatur High student section stormed the field. It was great to be a Decatur Red Raider on Thursday night at Milton Frank Stadium in Huntsville.

The unranked Red Raiders knocked off the No. 1 team in Class 5A with a 30-20 win over J.O. Johnson. Along with the victory, Decatur sent a message to the rest of the state that a team that missed the playoffs a year ago was back.

Also, the Red Raiders proved they could play with the senior-heavy and talent-loaded Jaguars.

"There was no doubt in our kids' minds they could — no question. And that's a credit to these kids," Decatur coach Jere Adcock said.

Johnson coach Harold Wells gathered his stunned team at the end of the game. Wells' team was ranked No. 1 for the first time in two decades, and he said handling that pressure was new ground when the Red Raiders came to visit.

"They whooped us — they out-played us," Wells said. "You don't change anything when you're ranked No. 1, but maybe it just didn't sink in that Decatur was a great team. They were ready and we weren't."

Johnson (2-1) had three turnovers in the first half as Decatur built a 20-13 halftime lead.

Decatur (2-1) gave up no turnovers and put forth an effort that Adcock said made him "really proud."

Sophomore quarterback Ben Neill completed 11 of 17 passes with no interceptions for 150 yards, connecting with eight different receivers.

Neill also threw two touchdown passes. Chris Coffey led Decatur's rushing attack with 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

But it was Johnson that struck first.

Sheer speed gave the Jaguars their first touchdown when Jontavious President broke away for a 90-yard punt return that, paired with an extra point by Fred Benjamin, put Johnson up 7-0 a little more than three minutes into the game.

“It’s something we’d been working on. We knew they had a great punt-return team,” Adcock said, shaking his head.

“They’re a very explosive football team, and we knew we couldn’t let them do that kind of stuff.”

But from that point on,Decatur ran over a Johnson defense that had allowed only seven points all season.

Neill connected with junior Levi Cook for a 2-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter, but after a bad snap on the kick hold, a 2-point conversion run was just short, and Decatur trailed 7-6.

Junior fullback David Martin’s 8-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left in the first quarter, and senior Michael Schuster’s extra point gave Decatur a 13-7 advantage.

Johnson’s Timothy Jenkins caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from David Isabelle with 5:41 remaining in the half, but the Jaguars’ extra point attempt failed, leaving the score tied at 13-13.

Coffey scored on a 31-yard screen pass from Neill that put the Red Raiders on top 20-13 after another extra point by Schuster.

Schuster’s 29-yard field goal and another Coffey touchdown run of 4 yards increased Decatur’s advantage to 30-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

With Johnson needing a score in a hurry, a sack by Decatur’s Pierre Key and a big hit by Antwon Owens on the next play all but ended the Jaguars’ drive.

“We were really in a daze from the opening,” Wells said.

Johnson managed a late touchdown — a 1-yard run for a score by Isabelle with 1:33 to play.

Decatur junior Brooks Johnson recovered the ensuing onside kick by the Jaguars, and the Red Raiders ran out the clock and likely ended the Jaguars’ time in the state’s No. 1 spot.

“We’re young, inexperienced, and this is not the most talented group we’ve had, but they’re doing the things every high school coach wants their kids to do,” Adcock said. “They’re buying into it.”

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