Jaywalking: Oh brother
Senior Mohawk Trail Regional High School offensive lineman Javius Johnson has been called upon to block some tough opponents over the years.
His toughest assignment may come Friday night.
Lining up opposite Johnson will be little brother Kyle, a sophomore Franklin County Technical School defensive lineman. The two football teams, which met on Turkey Day through 2004, will meet under the lights in Buckland in a Tri-County League matchup.
The game is something the two Ashfield boys have had circled on their calendars for some time now. Both play on the offensive and defensive line, and both will definitely go head-to-head at times.
“We absolutely will be going up against each other,” Javius said. “I know my brother is a skilled player. And maybe I know a couple of his weaknesses.”
Away from the field, the brothers are close. Fishing and deer hunting are two activities they enjoy together. The strong bond has also meant for a lot of banter in the Johnson household over the past couple of weeks.
“Everyday,” Kyle said when asked if he has been trash-talking his brother. “And he hasn’t heard the end of it.”
But that’s all talk, of course. The two brothers share respect for what they bring to the football field. Javius, who wears No. 75, is a 5-foot-10, 275-pound monster in he middle of what has been one of the area’s best offensive lines this season. The defensive line has also thrived with Johnson playing as a tackle and clogging up running lanes in the middle. He is hard to miss. On many plays, you can see him, animated, encouraging the rest of the team.
“He’s been doing really well this season,” Kyle said of big bro. “I’ve watched him play since he was a freshman. He’s always done good. We’ll see what he’s got on Friday night, I guess.”
As for Kyle, he’s a 6-foot, 215-pound interior lineman thriving on both sides of the ball as well. The Franklin Tech defense has allowed just six points in four league games thus far, included shutting down some formidable offenses. Johnson, who went to Tech to study plumbing and wears No. 71, and the rest of the defensive line have been joined by a solid linebacking corps to give opposing running backs fits.
“My own brother is really shining,” Javius said. “I’m really proud of him.”
Other siblings have siblings faced off in the past. Dane and Evan Jobst met on the basketball court a few years back. And while their paths crossed on the court, it was nothing like meeting in the football trenches. But the fact that you are going to have two brothers muscling up against each other in head-to-head combat is not the only thing that makes this game so intriguing; it also has major ramifications in the TCL standings and postseason considerations. Franklin Tech enters the game 4-1 overall and a perfect 4-0 against league opponents. Mohawk comes in 4-1 overall and in league play. That puts both teams in a deadlock for the fourth spot in the WMass Division VI rankings. So a win would go a long way toward helping both teams get into the postseason. Javius said that he actually believes the game features the most potent offense in the TCL against the stingiest defense.
“I believe that we are the top two teams,” he said, ignoring the fact that Mohawk lost to McCann Tech. “I believe they have a very strong defense, but we have the strongest offense, and that starts with the offensive line. Their defense is nothing to take lightly, though.”
Although McCann Tech would point to its 18-6 win over Mohawk as a legitimate claim to No. 1, that game could be marked with an asterisk after the Warriors lost starting quarterback Andrew Doty early. With him leading the offense, the Warriors have been tough to stop, amassing 222 points in five games, easily the highest offensive output of any TCL team. The next closest team in scoring? Franklin Tech, which has scored 163 points in just four league games.
And when it comes to defense, the Eagles have set the bar, allowing just six points in four league games this season; that includes shutting down a Ware offense that put up 42 points against Pioneer.
“We’ve got a good D,” Kyle said. “We fire off the ball, we hit hard, and we let them know we’re there.”
And while fans from both schools should make it a strong crowd at the game, there will be at least a few people not rooting against either team.
“This is very bad for me,” Kathy Johnson joked. The brothers’ mother answered the phone Sunday night when I called the Johnson home and, of course, I had to ask how the mother of players on opposing teams feels in a game like this.
“I’m nervous about it,” she continued. “I’m going to sit in the middle of the bleachers.”
I also found out from the boys’ mother that she comes from a football family. In fact, her brother just so happens to be the coach of another western Mass. football team; Joe Kocot, the longtime coach at Easthampton High School, which moved out of the TCL this season and now plays in Mohawk’s previous Intercounty League home.
It should be a great game Friday night. Both teams will battle for playoff positioning as well as for the pride of winning a game against an elite divisional opponent. All that is left now is the outcome, which neither boy hesitated top predict.
“You’re really putting me on the spot here,” said Javius, who sees his Warriors winning 36-24.
Kyle isn’t buying it. He’s taking Tech, 21-6.
One brother will have the winner right come Saturday morning.
Another week and another brutal performance by the Giants. I’ve seen enough. Top-5 pick here we come.
Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.