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Johnson Taking Up the Slack in His Attitude

Football: After partying his way out of a possible scholarship, Orange Coast punter discovers that hard work pays off on the field and in the classroom.

December 02, 2000|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Johnson, selected All-Mission Conference and honorable mention All-American, is a weapon most community college teams do not have. His punts soar high in the air, hanging upward of 4.2 seconds--an eternity to the return man waiting for the ball.

"It's huge having him," Taylor said. "He always keeps you ahead in the field-position battle. Those are the hidden yards that won't show up in the stats."

Johnson, 6 feet 4 and 250 pounds, is also the team's backup quarterback. He's completed four of seven passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns and has the size and athleticism to play the position, but his heart is in his leg.

He loves the science of punting, the feeling of a good kick leaving his foot and the art of taking a fall trying to draw a roughing-the-kicker penalty.

He also likes that he doesn't have to go through the heavy workouts and conditioning drills. He doesn't have to get dirty.

"I love the fact that I'm a punter," he said. "I used to look around trying to find the easy way through life and I'm starting to realize that being a punter is the easiest road of anyone."

Johnson has a fantasy he calls "the perfect punt." He takes the ball in his own end zone and makes the ultimate connection with leg fully extended. The ball gets up into a tail wind and carries over the returner's head, bounces, rolls and comes to rest just inside the opposite one-yard line.

"It's more of a dream," Johnson said. "If I ever do it, then I'll quit right there, but until then, I'm going to keep working for that goal."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Community College Football

* What: Strawberry Bowl

* When: 7 tonight.

* Where: Cerritos College, 1110 E. Alondra Blvd., Norwalk

* Matchup: Orange Coast College (6-4), Mission Conference Central Division co-champion, vs. Cerritos (7-3), tied for third in Mission Conference Northern Division.

* Notes: Orange Coast started the season 0-3, then won a share of the Central Division title to earn a bowl bid. Cerritos had a 5-0 start but fizzled in the tough Northern Division. . . . Both teams played the same 10 opponents during the regular season, but did not face each other. . . . Both defeated Palomar, Saddleback, Golden West and Santa Ana. The only team both lost to was El Camino. Orange Coast dropped a 30-0 decision to the Warriors in Week 3; Cerritos lost to El Camino, 24-21, in Week 6. . . . Key players for Cerritos are defensive end Demetrin Veal, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound sophomore who was named Northern Division defensive player of the year, and Doug Baughman, a sophomore quarterback who passed for 2,007 yards and 17 touchdowns. . . . For the Pirates, 6-3, 245-pound tight end Ben Fredrickson was a unanimous all-conference selection. Linebackers Dustin Davis, Martin Janzon and Justin Blackard lead a tough OCC defense.

* Tickets: $7 general admission, $3 for seniors and children under 12. No student discount.

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