High school football: Bangor High School's Drew Johnson a model of efficiency at QB

Bangor High School quarterback Drew Johnson, shown here busting loose against Melrose-Mindoro, has rushed for 544 yards and 10 TDs this season. In addition, he has passed for another 633 yards, including 14 TDs.

NATE BEIER, Special to the Tribune

BANGOR — Quarterbacks in the triple-option system can’t miss opportunities and remain successful.

The offense is geared toward ball control — consistent 3- or 4-yard gains are welcomed — and patience, but it also builds up to the big play.

Bangor High School senior Drew Johnson guides his football team to those big plays, and it’s his job to make good on the chances that arise.

Rick Muellenberg

Muellenberg

“With our passing game, we look for efficiency,” said Bangor coach Rick Muellenberg, whose 11-0 team plays at defending WIAA Division 7 state champion Edgar (11-0) in a quarterfinal on Friday night.

Efficient is certainly one way to describe Johnson’s second season as the Cardinals’ starter at quarterback.

Johnson, who took over the season after Kellen Kravik — another efficient quarterback — helped Bangor win a state championship, has attempted 45 passes in 11 games.

He has completed 28 of them (62.2 percent) for 633 yards, an average of 22.6 yards per throw. More importantly, 14 of those completions have gone for touchdowns.

“Our receivers are very good at getting open,” said Johnson, who has completed 61 passes in 102 attempts for 1,224 yards, 23 touchdowns and two interceptions during a 24-game career at quarterback. “Sometimes the passes are even harder to make because they are so wide open.”

It’s more than that.

Johnson’s grasp of the offense came pretty quickly, and he completed his junior season without an interception in 57 attempts. His 33 completions averaged 17.9 yards, and nine went for touchdowns.

“I was nervous when last year started, and I was a little nervous when this year started, too,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have a great start this year.

“I threw an interception in the first game, and that killed me. But there was nothing I could do to change it, so I got over it.”

Johnson responded by throwing at least one touchdown pass in the next nine games. He tossed three in a 44-15 win over Potosi/Cassville and three in a 63-6 first-round playoff win over Royall.

What makes that impressive is that he plays quarterback for a team that averages 365 rushing yards per game.

Johnson is a big part of that, too. He has carried 65 times for 544 yards — an 8.4-yard average — and scored 10 touchdowns to go with seven two-point conversions. He ran for 696 yards on 121 carries — a 5.4-yard average — and 10 TDs last season.

The passing performance, however, is tough to dismiss if you are lining up to play the Cardinals. The Wildcats limited Johnson to two completions and 47 passing yards in last year’s 29-6 semifinal victory at UW-Eau Claire, but Johnson is convinced he will have better chances this time around.

That likely means he will be eyeing up the right time to get the ball to receiver Caleb Miedema, whose production is up from last season, too. Miedema caught 11 passes for 232 yards and five touchdowns last year and has 12 for 398 yards and nine TDs this season.

Senior Luke Reader, who leads the team with 1,361 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns, has turned three of his seven catches into scores.

“His decision-making has been really good back there,” Muellenberg said of Johnson, who has completed 26 of 38 passes since beating Melrose-Mindoro 51-7 in Week 1 and 19 of 26 in the last seven games.

“Our coaches design things really well,” said Johnson, a contributor at linebacker since he was a sophomore. “What they tell us will be open is usually open.

“If it’s not, we have receivers who are good enough and athletic enough to make a play on it.”


Photos: 2017 high school football season in the La Crosse area

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