When folks in South Pittsburg holler at Demetric Johnson, the senior football player most often hears "Little Man."
"I don't really know the story behind [the nickname], but I know he's been called that from a very early age," South Pittsburg coach Vic Grider said.
Johnson isn't exactly little anymore, standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 195, and he was very big Thursday night as he and the Pirates defeated outmanned Lookout Valley 69-27. Johnson earned Times Free Press Player of the Week honors by running for 308 yards and six touchdowns on 14 carries. Three of his scoring runs covered 50 or more yards.
He told the Times Free Press that night that it wasn't always that easy and then deflected the attention to the Pirates' offensive line.
"I've got to give it to the line. Holes were everywhere," he said.
Johnson's effort came up 31 yards shy of the South Pittsburg rushing record set by Johnny Sisco in 1985, but his six touchdowns tied Sam Pickett's single-game record.
"I saw Pickett when I was an assistant, and [Johnson] is as close to Pickett as any of their backs I've seen," said Tony Webb, who has seen a variety of good running backs during his nine years as Lookout Valley's head coach. "They've had different types of backs. Robert Robinson was a big fullback who was probably the best player on what I think has been their best team (2007)."
Grider basically shrugged his shoulders when asked where Johnson might rank on the Pirates' honor-laden running back pecking order.
"It's hard to compare them — basically impossible, because we have had so many good ones — but his skill set would be as good as anybody we've had," the coach said. "Raquis Hale had great lateral speed, and so does Little Man. Speed? He's probably as fast as Pickett, but he doesn't mind lowering his shoulder and getting the tough yardage, and he has also developed into a pretty good blocker."
Few recruiters know about Johnson, primarily because he was sidelined much of his junior season by first a high-ankle sprain and then a partially separated shoulder.
"People ask for film and I've had so little film of him to send. He played a lot as a sophomore, but that was as a receiver," Grider said. "There are people that love him like UTC and MTSU, but I think more people are going to be showing up if he avoids injury. He has the ability to play a lot of places.
"He'll never be a 220-pound guy, but he can easily go 195-200. He's so active — he plays everything — so it's hard to keep weight on him."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...
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