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updated: 10/5/2013 12:08 AM

Johnson steps up as Lakes shuts down Grant

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Thick-thighed like Lakes' previous star running back, Cameron Johnson might find himself in the thick of a quarterback controversy.

Well, not really.

TJ Edwards, even after jamming a finger in the Eagles' 41-0 win over North Suburban Prairie visitor Grant on a homecoming Friday night, doesn't have to worry about losing his starting job.

"Yeah," Johnson said, laughing, after making his requested QB debut, which lasted one play. "He brings us all together. He's safe."

Thanks to Johnson, who rushed for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries, and Edwards, who gained 99 yards on the ground and threw a 42-yard TD pass to Jake Balliu (his only completion of the night), Lakes (5-1, 4-0) moved within a victory of clinching its fifth straight playoff berth.

Banged-up Grant (1-5, 1-2) will miss the playoffs after three straight postseason appearances.

Lakes led only 7-0 after one quarter, as Grant's Joe Sadausakas intercepted the Western Michigan-bound Edwards twice, but the Eagles exploded in the second quarter. After Balliu's TD reception made it 14-0, Michal Tomasiewicz recovered the ensuing onside kick, which led to Johnson's 3-yard touchdown run. When Balliu won a race to the right corner of the end zone from 5 yards out with 20 seconds left before halftime, it was a 28-0 game.

Then after Johnson busted tackles and bounced off bodies en route to a 54-yard touchdown run on the Eagles' first play from scrimmage of the second half, he walked up to head coach Luke Mertens. Johnson then reminded Mertens of a promise he made.

"We were talking in practice," Johnson said. "I've always wanted to play a little quarterback. He said, 'If we're up by 35 points, I'll let you get in at QB.'

"So I took the opportunity when it arose," Johnson added, smiling.

Mertens made good on his promise. When Lakes got the ball back, QB Ethan Sage split wide to the left after originally lining up in shotgun formation. Johnson slid over, took the direct snap and raced 13 yards for a first down.

It was Johnson's only play at QB.

The 5-foot-6, 200-pound senior has enjoyed a breakout season after playing behind Direll Clark last year. Johnson has 11 TDs.

"We call him the Bowling Ball," Edwards said. "He's got tree trunks for thighs. He works so hard in the weight room. He's earned this, definitely. Last year, backing up Direll, he couldn't do much. But this year he's a senior captain and a leader on this team. He's doing great."

Led by an offensive line featuring Ryan Mullen, Steven McVicker, Chris Diaguila, Troy Kincaid and Austin Summers, Lakes rushed for 402 yards. Edwards, who had his right finger (throwing hand) in a splint and his pads off for the second half, got hurt early on but played the entire first half.

"It was like the first play on defense," Edwards said. "I was trying to make a tackle and I just kind of jammed it on the guy."

Besides the 2 interceptions, Lakes' sluggish start also included the Eagles' burning back-to-back timeouts without a play being run.

"Mental mistakes," Johnson said. "We're working on getting better with the little things."

Edwards wasn't blaming his finger for the interceptions.

"It was just bad decisions on those picks," Edwards said. "No excuses there."

Grant played without last Saturday's hero, Jeremy Bredwood (neck), who had 2 touchdowns in a homecoming win over North Chicago. The Bulldogs are on their fourth-string quarterback and fullback. They mustered just 146 yards of total offense.

"The guys (Lakes) had on the field were better than the guys we had on the field," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "We didn't quit. ... I've got nothing philosophical to say. We just got too many guys hurt."

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