While all eyes were riveted on the Manning, the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning and the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2023, it was LCA quarterback JuJuan Johnson
who absolutely stole the show.
The 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore accounted for 385 yards and five touchdowns — in the first half alone — as the Knights (11-1) eliminated Newman in the semifinals for the second year in a row.
Last year it was competitive, a 21-7 LCA victory, but on this night the Knights simply could not be stopped, especially Johnson, who played one series in the second half and, predictably, led his team to another score. His fourth TD pass, this one 19-yards to
Darian Riggs, made it 49-7 with 10:17 left in the third quarter.
The game essentially ended there as both teams emptied their benches and a running clock was implemented to start the fourth quarter.
Johnson unofficially finished 12-of-14 passing for 337 yards to go with 13 carries for 72 yards and two more scores in just 26 minutes of play.
Manning, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior, scored his team's only touchdown on a 5-yard run midway through the first quarter to tie the game at 7. It was all LCA after that. Manning was 7-for-16 and 52 yards. He didn't throw a pass after his final one was tipped and intercepted early in the third quarter.
LCA took a knee at the Newman 11 with more than six minutes remaining.
Johnson, showing off a strong and accurate right arm, completed two touchdowns to Alex Beard of 62 and 69 yards and a 34-yarder to Cowinn Helaire. He also had two short touchdowns runs while while Luke Aragona added a 3-yard TD run to start the scoring.
LCA goes for its fifth straight title next week against St. Charles Catholic (LaPlace). LCA beat St. Charles Catholic 12-7 in last year's state finals.
This was the fifth year since 2014 that Newman reached the semifinals but with Manning and an inexperienced squad back next season, the Greenies will have a good shot to get over the hump. Especially because LCA will be moving up a division.
Manning entered the game with nearly 2,000 yards passing and 26 touchdowns against three interceptions in 2021. He also had rushed for 365 yards and seven more scores.