By SAM McGAW
Camron Johnson entered this season as one of the state’s top wide receivers.
However, it’s his defensive prowess that’s taking the Brentwood Academy Eagles to new heights.
The junior safety showed off his ball-hawking ability Friday, as he recovered a fumble and intercepted two passes, including one returned for a touchdown, to send the Eagles (8-2) to the Division II-AA state semifinals with a 37-29 win at home against McCallie (7-5).
“We know at any point in time we can create a turnover,” said Johnson, who’s fielding football scholarship offers from Tennessee, Auburn, Louisville and others.
“We didn’t have a good game against them two weeks ago, and their quarterback (Robert Riddle) was saying he wasn’t really worried about our defense, so I think we came out tonight with a little something to prove.”
BA, the defending DII-AA champion, hosts Baylor Friday for a shot at returning to the title game.
Johnson’s 30-yard return for a touchdown pushed the Eagles ahead 37-22 with 3:47 left in the game.
It was his seventh takeaway (4 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries) and fifth non-offensive touchdown of the season.
“We’re talented on the back end,” BA head coach Cody White said. “Their quarterback is exceptional and what they do offensively is very tough, but we have some players, too, and they made big plays when they needed to.”
Outside linebacker Jeremiah Pittman handed McCallie its fourth turnover with an interception late in the third quarter.
Quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall recorded 299 passing yards, 49 rushing yards and three touchdowns (1 run).
He hit Daniel Taylor for touchdown strikes of 34 and 44 yards and he rushed for a 2-yard score to push the Eagles ahead 23-0 entering the final two minutes of the first half.
Oatsvall’s touchdown run and a 26-yard field goal by Toby Wilson were set up by passes of 52 and 46 yards to receiver Mike Archie.
“All season we knew our receiving corps is one of the best in the state when it wants to be,” Oatsvall said. “We have weapons all over there. We knew Archie could make those kinds of catches, and Daniel really stepped up and made some big catches for some big touchdowns.”
Taylor finished with two catches and an 86-yard kickoff return, while Archie had five receptions for 134 yards.
McCallie responded to Taylor’s second touchdown with a 3-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that cut BA’s lead to 23-7 with 1:49 left in the first half.
Johnson secured his first interception of the game on the first drive of the third quarter and returned it 59 yards to the McCallie 11. Marcos Harris capitalized on the takeaway with a 1-yard touchdown plunge to extend BA’s lead to 30-7 two minutes into the frame.
McCallie closed its deficit to 30-22 a minute into the fourth quarter with its second unanswered touchdown pass by Riddle.
He added his third score of the game with a 4-yard pass to Kendall Watson with 1:34 to play.
McCallie finished with 500 total yards, including 280 through the air from Riddle.
Sam McGaw is sports editor of Home Page Media Group. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcGawSports.