Antwuan Johnson’s decision to transfer from Springfield High School to Dunbar was a head-scratcher. A talented underclass linebacker, he had already verbally committed to the University of Michigan and seemed destined to be a key player in Maurice Douglass’ revitalization of the Springfield program.
Johnson is still in that role, only with the unbeaten Wolverines. He’s also back home where he grew up.
“I told the guys the reason I came back is because I feel this team can go 10-0 and make a push to the playoffs,” Johnson said after Thursday’s practice. “This is what we’ve been working for.”
Dunbar (2-0) could make a huge Division IV playoff statement by winning at Princeton (2-0) today. Princeton long ago was surpassed by Greater Miami Conference rival Colerain as Cincinnati’s best public-school program, but that doesn’t lessen what’s at stake for the Wolverines.
On Friday Johnson announced on Twitter that he was decommitting to Michigan and reopening his recruitment.
“This game sets us up great for the playoffs,” Dunbar coach Darran Powell said. “This will be a big step not only for us but for the City League. A win would put us back on the map.”
That’s not a stretch for Dunbar. The Wolverines are loaded with many two- and three-year starters. In his fourth season as coach, this is Powell’s first class to go through four seasons of Dunbar football. Perhaps most significant, Dunbar led Princeton 21-0 at halftime last year at Welcome Stadium. That likely win was derailed when the Wolverines’ starting QB went out with a concussion and Dunbar was down to its third-team QB. Princeton won, 41-29.
Powering Dunbar’s running game is junior Tavion Thomas, who has 260 yards rushing after taking the bulk of the carries from injured starter Jeff Wagner (ankle). Junior receiver Joe Scates has freakish ability and eight touchdowns to go with 15 offers, including Cincinnati, Indiana and Kentucky. Vanderbilt made its pitch to Scates this week.
And then there’s Johnson. In a 36-30 season-opening defeat of Withrow he had 22 tackles, a QB hurry and interception. That was the kind of play that tempted UM to offer Johnson as a sophomore. Johnson said he talked with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh for 30 minutes explaining the transfer from Springfield.
“My dad made me leave (for Springfield) but at the end of the day it was a good decision by him,” said Johnson, now a junior. “It helped me out and helped me grow and mature as a player on and off the field. With me coming back, I just brought my leadership qualities here.
“(Michigan) supported my decision and asked me what happened. I let them know and they were like, it’s always good to be back home.”
Count on Powell as feeling lucky, too.
“He’s the leader of our defense and makes everything go,” Powell said of Johnson. “He’s the engine of our defense and the leader who we needed. He steps up in meetings. He makes our job a lot easier. You bet I’m glad to have him back.”
• Two key players anchored in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North have been lost for the season because of injury: Sidney sophomore quarterback Andre Gordon and Piqua senior running back/linebacker Darien Tipps-Clemons.
Gordon initially injured a wrist in the preseason and completed 8 of 17 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening 43-39 shootout loss at St. Marys. Persistent pain revealed a broken bone and he was shut down for the season.
Tipps-Clemons tore an ACL in a 38-6 loss at Trotwood-Madison. The Indians leaned on senior Allen Schrubb against the Rams and he responded with 167 yards rushing in 17 carries and scored twice. Piqua (1-1) is at Franklin (2-0) today in a rare GWOC/Southwestern Buckeye League matchup.
• Coldwater (2-0) is at Marion Local (2-0) today in what could decide the Midwest Athletic Conference title. These teams have won every conference title since 2001.
Coldwater, a four-time defensive D-V state champion, is on a 25-game win streak and hasn’t lost since a 20-0 defeat in Week 7 to Marion Local in the 2014 season. The Flyers own a 31-game home win streak. The Cavs won 17-14 last year on a field goal in the final seconds.