The development of Arab’s football program over the last three years under head coach Lee Ozmint is such that having three players named to the 6A All-State team last week almost came as a disappointment – as in, just three?
There were several others who were worthy following Arab’s best season in years. But the three who were named were emblematic of the 2021 edition of the Arab Knights, according to Ozmint.
John Wesson Johnson was named second team All-State as an athlete after a special season that saw him haul in 46 catches for 680 yards and nine touchdowns while also playing defense as a true shutdown corner.
Jonathan Pugh and Mitchell Duquette were named honorable mention after leading the Knights’ defense in tackles. Ozmint has called the defensive front of Pugh, Caleb Roe and Jonah Humphreys the best in north Alabama.
Partially because of that front, Duquette led the team with 52 solo tackles and 44 assists, edging out Pugh, who had 50 solos and 29 assists. Duquette had 14 tackles for losses and Pugh had 12 – plus three sacks.
Pugh was the 6A, Region 7 Defensive Player of the Year and also the Marshall County Defensive MVP.
“I am extremely proud of Wes, Jonathan and Mitchell,” Ozmint said. “Though these awards look like they’re given for individual accomplishments, I’m proud that these young men understand that these awards are given to the entire team through them.
“They represent those that blocked, took on blocks, rushed the passer and did their jobs so they could step up in big situations and use their God-given ability to make plays.
“These honors are well-deserved and all three should get an opportunity to play at the next level.”
Ozmint noted that Wes Johnson made all those catches because the offensive line protected quarterback James Ed Johnson – Wes’ twin brother – who was the Marshall County Offensive MVP after throwing for 1,608 yards and 12 touchhdowns while also running for 829 yards and 17 TDs.
Duquette, Ozmint said, was able to make all those tackles because of the excellence of the defensive front.
“Our defense finished in the top three in the state (6A), and that was no accident,” Ozmint said. “Our defense played hard and well all year long, and I’m very proud of them.”
Ozmint wanted more players to be recognized state-wide, saying “a lot of kids didn’t make it and should have.”
But he added: “These three are a good representation of who we are.”
That goes for the players actions on and off the field.
“I’m most proud of the fact that each of these young men has represented well a family, a school and a community that has tirelessly supported them,” Ozmint said. “In a world of self-promotion and encouraged avarice, these men decided to do something incredibly difficult and challenging that was always bigger than themselves.
“In doing so they, as well as all of their teammates, accomplished great things. They are truly built different.”
The all-state teams are selected by the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s prep committee through coaches’ nominations. The ASWA’s prep committee will name three finalists for back and lineman of the year in each of the seven AHSAA classifications and the AISA on Sunday.
That group will be honored at the annual Player of the Year banquet in Montgomery on Jan. 13, when the back and lineman of the year in each class will be announced as well as the state’s Mr. Football.