Park’s Johnson Named The Intelligencer’s Sophomore of the Year

First and foremost, there is the pedigree.

When you are a high school football player in West Virginia, and you sit down to the dinner table with a Kennedy Award winner, there will be football conversation.

When you call the Kennedy Award winner “Dad” you get more than conversation.

There are built in expectations.

Nobody is more aware of that than Wheeling Park’s Savion Johnson, whose dad Daryl “Boogie” Johnson won the the 1991 Kennedy Award at Park.

“I’ve always known there were going to be expectations,” Johnson said. “Everybody here knows what he did. It’s not something I think about a lot. To me, he’s my dad. I guess people kind of expect you to do the same kinds of things, but I put a lot of expectations on myself.”

After a standout sophomore season in which he ran for 1,484 yards on 213 carries and 20 touchdowns and helped lead Park to an 11-2 record, Savion has been named the The Intelligencer’s 29th Sophomore of the Year.

While he has the pedigree and the proverbial expectations lumped on top, to say the season, and the postseason accolades to follow, including second-team all-state and first-team All-Valley was expected would be a gross overstatement.

Johnson was supposed to back up Bryce Ingram, who was a second-team all-stater in 2012.

That was fine with Johnson, who was expected to get a handful of carries, and ease his way into the high school game.

It didn’t work out that way.

When Ingram was injured in the summer, he missed the first two games of the season.

Johnson filled in admirably in victories against Keyser and Bridgeport.

Ingram returned, but three games later he was injured against Morgantown and was done for the season.

Enter Johnson.

He finished with six straight games of 100 yards or more (and 12 touchdowns), including an even 200 yards against John Marshall and a four-touchdown performance (two rushing and two receiving) in the Patriots’ first victory against Steubenville. His streak ended in a playoff loss to Huntington, but he made a huge play in that game, dragging several Huntington defenders on a touchdown run that got Park momentarily back in the game.

“His work ethic in the weight room, the work he has done over the years, had him working toward that,” Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty said. “He doesn’t look, run or act like a sophomore. That is how you end up being Sophomore of the Year. All the things he’s done that allows him to stand out.”

That and a dad who knows what it takes to be successful. After all, Boogie went to Oklahoma State on the heels of Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas and had a good career.

”Unbelievable. That’s probably the single most surprising thing, how he deals with that,” Daugherty said.

Unafraid of the comparisons, or, perhaps just knowing they were soon to follow, Savion embraced it by wearing his father’s No. 21.

“I ask him once, ‘Do you want to follow in (Boogie’s) footsteps?'” Daugherty said. “He said, ‘I want to be Savion Johnson.’ He said it with conviction. He is going to outwork his father. How far that takes him, I don’t know.”

It helped his coach that the young Johnson never had to be schooled on the little things.

“So many times we have to teach ball security,” Daugherty said. “We have to teach ‘we’re trying to run clock, stay in bounds.’ We have to teach to be patient.

“He kind of came with that stuff. That is intelligent stuff. Not God-given. It is more cerebral. It came from his dad.”

So did his hard-charging style. Johnson was often content to run over linebackers, just as well as try to elude them, a rare quality in the player just getting his feet wet in the high school games.

“He always tries to stay on his feet and not go down, part of that is his dad,” Daugherty said. “Boogie never allowed him to accept mediocre runs. The father-son that can be a pain in the rear for the dad, but he is the driving force.”

Daugherty said Johnson, a 4.0 student, could have been a standout linebacker as well but they needed him more on offense.

Johnson, also a member of the Park varsity basketball team, still has a ways to go to catch his dad.

He is, however, off to a rousing start, as the Sophomore of the Year, though he is admittedly surprised by it.

“There are a lot of great sophomores,” Johnson said. “Every team we played had a great sophomore player. On our team, we had some sophomores who were great players, not just me. It’s an honor.”

Johnson is the second Wheeling Park player to be so honored. The other was Mike McLeod, who is the baseball coach at Park and, ironically, was a classmate of Boogie Johnson’s.

Other sophomores considered were Magnolia’s Kyle Ritz, St. Clairsville’s Jake Stewart, Steubenville’s Johnnie Blue, Martin’s Ferry’s Arjay Burress, Linsly’s Isaiah Harvin and Valley’s Trey Streets.