Since middle school, Keith Johnson had envisioned himself running unto the field draped in an Edgewood jersey.
Johnson’s aspirations of making that a reality appeared virtually impossible at the time because he lived more than two hours away in the Dothan area.
That was five years ago, just when Edgewood’s Bobby Carr began his reign of terror over the Alabama Independent School Association, capturing the first set of multiple state championships in football and baseball during the 2008-09 season.
“When I was in sixth grade, I went to a baseball camp at Edgewood, and that’s when it all started,” Johnson said. “My uncle introduced me to Coach Carr and his staff. I saw how everyone liked it here and the tradition they had. After that, I just knew I wanted to be a part of everything.”
Now Johnson gets an opportunity to help the Wildcats (13-0) keep their impressive winning ways intact as they try to win their fifth football championship in six years in today’s Class AA title against Clarke Prep (8-4).
Edgewood, which has strung together 44 consecutive wins, can establish a new AISA all-time mark with one more victory. Having captured the last three state crowns, the Wildcats have not dropped a game since losing 13-12 to Glenwood at home on Oct. 22, 2010.
“Everybody here gets after it on every play and has the heart to win,” said Johnson, who transferred from Ashford Academy. “You get here and everything is about championships — that’s exactly what I want to be a part of.”
The junior linebacker has stepped right in and played a big role in securing Edgewood’s return to Troy’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, leading the team in tackles with 129. He also has 12 catches and a pair of touchdowns.
“Any kid that transfers in from another school usually knows about the success that we’ve had here and they want to be a part of it, so they jump right on board,” Carr said. “That’s what Keith’s done, he’s stepped right in and filled a void at linebacker.”
With the loss of countless defensive starters from the 2012 squad, the addition of Johnson couldn’t have been timelier.
“We lost 10 starters on defense, and we really needed a Sam linebacker,” said Carr, whose team beat Clark Prep in last year’s title game. “He’s been great. After the first game of the year against Hooper, I’m getting text messages and phone calls from people asking me who’s No. 5 because he was making plays all over the field.”
Unlike most Edgewood transfers, Johnson wasn’t unfamiliar about what it takes to grind through a state championship season. Last winter at Huntingdon College, the 5-foot-9, 175-pounder played on the Class A state championship basketball team at Ashford that beat Abbeville Christian 58-39.
“Last year, I felt the feeling of getting after it every play,” said Johnson, who has two interceptions. “That’s what sets you apart.”