Interview by Carl Frederick
Among many of the big time returning players returning next year for the LL-Berks League (Cameron Jones, Noah Rohrer, Jonathan Martin just to name a few) Sophomore Hayden Johnson may stand out the most. The Manheim Township quarterback, Johnson put up historic numbers (25 tds, 8 ints) leading his squad to a District 3 playoff berth. The young signal caller is ranked by many sites as one of the top quarterbacks in the State. Hayden was able to take a break from throwing ropes to talk about expectations, who needs to step up and the Berks county merger:
Carl Frederick: You put up impressive record setting numbers last season, what is one moment that really stood out the most on your Sophomore campaign?
Hayden Johnson: Thank you, One moment that really stood out to me was a certain stretch of 4 games (Spring ford, Cocalico, Cedar crest, and Penn Manor). These games to me were really just the highlight and the moments that stood out to me this year. As a team we were clicking on all cylinders and I thought we really came together and everyone was doing their part.
CF: The Blue Streaks have lost some key play-makers in Anthony Ivey, Isaiah Jones and Elijah Fonseca, tell us about some of the players that will need to step up as their replacements?
Johnson: Yeah of course losing those players and some other very crucial players on our line and defense will be very difficult to move on from, but there are some guys that really can make a huge impact and fill that void. List of names- Landon Kennel (WR), Jimmy Morales (LT), and Austin Day (MLB, C). Landon Kennel was our wide receiver 2 last year and he really was a huge part in our offense but with Anthony Ivey leaving he will need to step up and fill that whole at the Receiver 1 position. I’ve thrown to Landon all my life and he’s been my go-to guy for the past 9 years and I can’t wait for him to be the #1 receiver next year. He’s got the size, speed, and work ethic to really be a crucial part in our offense. He’s going to have a breakout season at our wide receiver 1 this year and really put himself out there even more than he did last year.
Next, Jimmy Morales. Jimmy played in a couple of games last year but he never solidified himself as a starter at tackle with our 2 senior tackles being ahead of him (Alex Romano, and Wes Hoffman). Jimmy really showed some flashes last year. He had some experience on Friday night’s last year but this year he will be our starting tackle and he will get the job done in the fall. Finally, Austin Day. Austin is a fantastic leader, in the weight room, field, and in the locker room. He started last year at middle linebacker but he will be put to the test next year at center. He played fantastic last year at linebacker and I believe that his experience last year will really help him at center this year. Especially being behind Michael O’Hara last year and learning from him. Of course, there are other guys that could be put on this list like Charlie Kingsbury, Carter Bair, Eli Rodriguez, and Jake Cramer, and more. But, these 3 guys I talked about will really be put to the test this year and will really need to step up.
CF: Do you find it challenging having your older brother (Tyler Johnson is an assistant on Manheim Township’s staff) on the coaching staff?
Hayden: I find it challenging in ways that actually benefit me. My brother can push me like nobody else can. Having him on the staff really helps me in the weight room because he is also our strength and conditioning coach. It is also great because it really creates a stronger bond with my brother and it is fun to be with him all the time and to be able to talk about football with him.
CF: What are your initial impressions of the merger with the Berks County league?
Johnson: Yeah, it’s honestly a great thing and a bad thing as a player in my opinion. It’s great because we get to play new teams and play in new stadiums and in new environments. I’m really looking forward to playing at Cumberland Valley in their new stadium this year. But also, there are some downsides. Growing up through the program I was always looking forward to playing teams like central dauphin in high school. Now, with expanding, we added new teams and central dauphin was now taken off our schedule and with them canceling due to Covid last year I never got to play them. Really, it’s a bitter-sweet feeling, but it is really great to expand and play against new teams next year.
CF: Give our audience one detail that we may not know about Hayden Johnson?
Johnson: One detail that I usually tell people that catches people off guard is that I’m actually color blind. It doesn’t affect me in games which I’m very lucky for.
You learn something new with every interview some may say, with every interview player or coach this writer would have to agree. Johnson is a name to watch for in the LL-Berks League, as you can see by his answers, he knows the challenge ahead of him.