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Merced football needs whole unit against Johansen

Johansen High School's Deven Cannon runs the ball against Golden Valley's Ralph Vasquez, on Sept. 25. Merced High School knows if they stop him they stop Johansen's offense.
Johansen High School's Deven Cannon runs the ball against Golden Valley's Ralph Vasquez, on Sept. 25. Merced High School knows if they stop him they stop Johansen's offense. Modesto Bee

Johansen's game plan isn't hard to figure out.

Jason McCoy's boys run the ball.

The Johansen coach puts his trust in his big offensive line and his talented running backs.

The strategy has worked.

Johansen (8-3) averages just under 311 yards rushing per game.

"They have a strong running game," Merced linebacker Tyler Johnson said.

"They come right at you with some big guys. Our job is to stop it."

Johnson and company will get their chance when Merced (10-1) hosts Johansen tonight in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs at Stadium '76.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The winner moves on to next week's semifinal against the winner of the St. Mary's-Lincoln game.

How much does Johansen rely on the run?

Consider this: Quarterback Joe Reynosa has passed for just 367 yards all season.

The Merced defense has been busy watching DVDs of Johansen running back Deven Cannon all week.

For good reason.

The Johansen star shredded McNair last week for 375 yards and five touchdowns.

Cannon has racked up 1,835 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.

Teammate William Corbin is a quality second option with 942 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"Last week they ran for 500 yards," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said. "I don't care who you're playing. That's impressive to do that in a playoff game."

Johansen's biggest obstacle will be shutting down Merced's offense.

Johansen has only played one team in Central Catholic this season that has the type of athletes Merced runs out on the field.

Central Catholic defeated Johansen 35-0.

Johansen cruised through the Modesto Metro Conference by outscoring inferior opponents 210 to 76.

Johansen may catch a break if Merced running back Stephon Mathis is unable to play.

The Merced star has Cannon-like numbers with 1,832 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Mathis sprained his left ankle in last week's 30-14 win over Tracy and has been limited in practice this week.

"If Stephon can't go, you'll probably see a lot of Bernard (Bolden) back there," Scheidt said.

Bolden has been a big play waiting to happen.

The senior is averaging over 15 yards per carry on his way to 449 yards and four touchdowns.

Bolden's ready to do whatever it takes to get his team to the next round.

"I don't want to have any regrets," he said. "I just want to go out there and do what I can to win it all."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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