Despite being an elusive running back that he is, even Nic Johnson gets tackled while playing high school football.
That’s exactly what happened Friday, Nov. 10, when the Cromwell-Wright senior was swallowed up in the backfield by a sea of Stephen-Argyle Central players early in a frigid Nine-Man state quarterfinal at Bemidji State.
It was that hit, which knocked Johnson’s helmet off, that gave the Cardinals’ star the worst news he could hear.
“They said I couldn’t go back out there,” said Johnson, who could only watch helplessly from the sidelines as Cromwell-Wright’s season was ended by the Storm, 39-22.
Although no concussion was diagnosed, Johnson was sidelined from the first quarter on, turning into a cheerleader rather than the speed demon he is against opponents. Cardinals coach Jeff Gronner noted his sparkplug was brought to the sidelines, evaluated and then ruled out by the on-site trainer.
Gronner, now with a career record of 123-37 in 14 seasons, explained the Minnesota State High School League has been cracking down on injuries to the head. And although it was hard hit for Cromwell-Wright, Gronner knows a blow to the head like that causes safety concerns.
“They don’t mess around anymore with head issues,” said Gronner. “It’s tough, but that’s how football goes sometimes.”
Thus, Gronner wasn’t making any excuses for their 17-point loss in a game in which they turned the ball over six times, allowed a blocked punt and spotted the Storm 32 consecutive points after taking a brief 6-0 lead.
Isaac Shelton, Cameron Cahoon and Kannon Korpela all carded touchdowns for Cromwell-Wright (11-1), but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with Stephen-Argyle Central (11-1), who are now playing in this week’s semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“You can’t turn the ball over six times and allow a blocked punt and expect to win,” said Gronner, whose team was seeking a second-straight trip to U.S. Bank Stadium after being part of the first-ever prep game played there last fall.
“We came up one game short. It’s been a rough week for the boys, but they’ll bounce back and be ready for next season,” Gronner said.
Luckily for the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Johnson, clocked as fast as 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the speedster will play next season as a Dragon at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
And despite a tough prep finale, Johnson has no regrets.
“I was bummed, but my teammates were there for me every step of the way,” he said. “I love playing with them.”