. - Norland (Miami, Fla.)
raised its stock among Florida's best teams Friday with a convincing Class 5A state championship blowout to seal a perfect season.
Behind a big game from senior running back Duke Johnson, the Vikings shut out
Wakulla (Crawfordville, Fla.)
38-0 to win the school's first football state title since 2002, while completing a 15-0 season.
Johnson led the way with five touchdowns. He scored three times on short runs, broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run and returned a kick 69 yards for a score. Johnson, who has orally committed to play next year for the University of Miami, finished with 136 yards rushing on 21 carries and added 54 receiving yards.
His effort gave him more than 2,000 yards rushing for the season, and he eclipsed 5,000 yards rushing for his three-season varsity career. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder finished his prep career with 71 touchdowns.
"This game was an opportunity for Duke to showcase what he can do, and he did that in a big way," Norland Coach Daryle Heidelburg said.
Johnson demonstrated his elusiveness on both his long kick return and his last touchdown, the 40-yarder.
On the kick return, Johnson collided with tacklers near midfield, spun to the right, used speed to beat defenders to the edge of the field and then shifted speeds and positions while working his way to the end zone.
On the 40-yard run, Johnson proved most impressive. He appeared to be stopped in the backfield after two tacklers met him, but he pushed off both with a stiff arm and slipped to the left sideline. After scampering another 10 yards, Johnson cut back on two pursuing defensive backs and continued untouched to the end zone.
"I worked hard after last season to improve my game, and part of that was about knowing where everyone is on the field," Johnson said. "I know where my blocks are. Not just in the backfield but with my receivers, too."
Johnson also attributed a fair amount of his success to pure speed.
"If I'm faster than you, you can't stop me," said Johnson, who donned a Styrofoam University of Miami hat shaped like the Hurricanes mascot during post-game interviews.
The Vikings defense also stepped up big.
"We have had success against the wing-T in the past. So we knew what we had to do today, and we had a lot of success," Heidelburg said.
Norland, which lost the 3A state championship game 44-34 to Tampa Jefferson last year, held Wakulla (12-3) to 71 yards, including just 17 rushing yards. Norland also forced two turnovers and sacked Wakulla quarterback Caleb Stephens
three times. The Vikings' linebackers thrived on key open-field tackles and penetration through Wakulla's offensive line.
Norland scored first late in the first quarter when Johnson slipped inside the left corner of the end zone on a 4-yard run. Senior quarterback Tony Thomas
set up the score with a 19-yard run up the gut. The 15-play, 85-yard drive also featured a fourth-and-inches effort at the Vikings' own 46-yard line.
After a quick Wakulla three-and-out series, Norland stretched the lead to 14-0 on a 5-yard run by Johnson. Thomas again set up the score by connecting with senior wide receiver Darren Owi
, who ran a post on the right side. Owi reeled in the pass in single coverage for a big gain and went out at the 5-yard line. Johnson scored two plays later.
On Wakulla's next drive, Shafique Neloms
recovered a fumble by Stephens, who was sacked by a pair of Vikings. Neloms' recovery set up a first down at Wakulla's 19-yard line, but Johnson was intercepted on a halfback pass in the end zone on Norland's first play of the drive.
The referee ruled that the Wakulla player came out of the end zone to a spot inside the 1-yard line, and Norland took advantage on the next play by stopping Wakulla in the end zone for a safety.
On the ensuing free kick, Johnson scored on a 69-yard return to put Norland ahead 23-0.
In the fourth quarter, Johnson caught a 23-yard pass from Thomas to set up first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Johnson went into the end zone untouched to make it 32-0. Midway through the fourth quarter, Johnson scored for final time.
"I worked hard after last season to get back here," said Johnson, who attributed some of his team's success to the sour memory of losing at the Citrus Bowl in 2010.