EDITOR'S NOTE: The Swnews4u.com Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.
Hunter Johnson, Sr., RB, Darlington football
Darlington’s Hunter Johnson is quite frankly unstoppable. Many defenses have tried to contain the speedy halfback during his career; almost every one has failed. But what Johnson was able to achieve last Friday night was a benchmark, even for his lofty standards.
The University of Wisconsin recruit ran for 360 yards on just 13 carries and score four touchdowns, hauled in a 40-yard touchdown catch and returned an interception 70 yards for a sixth touchdown — ALL IN THE FIRST HALF — to lead the second-ranked Redbirds to a 63–20 victory over visiting Cuba City.
Johnson’s 475-yard, six touchdown outburst lifted Darlington to a 42–7 halftime lead and earned him the Mast Water Technology Swnews4U.com Athlete of the Week award for the second time in three weeks.
“Hunter is a man among boys out there,” said Darlington head coach Scott Zywicki. “We like to get him on the perimeter and off tackle. That’s where he does most of his damage. At his size, he runs away from interior lineman and even defensive backs cant’ catch him when he gets out in the open. You’re asking a lot of a defensive back to bring him down in the open field, especially when he has a head of steam.”
Johnson raced 80 yards on Darlington’s first play from scrimmage to make it 7–0 less than two minutes into the game. On the Redbirds’ second possession, he capped a nine-pay, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard blast into the end zone, and on Darlington’s third drive, Johnson hauled in a 45-yard TD pass from Jared Meister to extend the lead to 21–0 with 46 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Johnson ripped off a 96-yard scoring jaunt early in the second quarter to make it 28–0, then ended a Cuba City scoring threat when he picked of an errant pass at the 30-yard line and took it all the way back for the score to put the ‘Birds up 35–7.
Dalington got the ball back with just 20 seconds remaining in the half, but that was more than enough time in time for Johnson on this night, as he closed his career-best performance with a 73-yard TD run.
“I didn’t know how we were going to play Friday night,” said Zywicki. “We were very quiet in warmups and I didn’t know if that was a good thing or not. They sure showed me it was a good thing. They certainly had their focus from the beginning of the game. They did some nice things on both sides of the ball.”
Johnson’s unbelievable night pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for the third time in his career. He is currently second in the state with 1,142 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. His 23 total touchdowns leads the state.
Undefeated Darlington (5–0, 2–0 SWAL) travels to Boscobel (1–4, 1–2) this Friday night.
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
Luke Fugate, Sr., RB, Platteville football
Fugate scored four touchdowns, despite touching the ball just five times in Platteville’s 62–8 victory over visiting Richland Center last Friday night. Fugate rushed for 92 yards and three first-half TDs on four carries, then returned the opening kickoff of the second half 70 yards for a fourth score.
Payton Heinberg, Sr., Darlington cross country
Heinberg won the boys’ individual title at the Marshall’s Dada Waddell Invitational on Tuesday, Sept. 13 with a career-best time of 16:26. Heinberg’s new PR led the Darlington boys to the team title at the 10-team event. Darlington will travel to Janesville on Saturday to compete in the 79th annual Midwest Invitational at Janesville’s Blackhawk Golf Course.
Emma Liddicoat, Sr., OH, Iowa–Grant volleyball
Liddicoat connected on 14 kills against SWAL rival Mineral Point in the championship match of Saturday’s eight-team Iowa–Grant Tournament to lead the host Panthers to a 25–19, 20–25, 15–10 victory. Liddicoat powered I–G’s offense throughout the tournament, posting a team-high 48 kills and eight aces to go along with 29 digs to lead the Panthers (12–4, 4–2 SWAL) to five straight wins on Saturday. Last Thursday, Liddicoat posted 17 kills and 10 digs in a 3–1 victory over Southwestern. She also had a team-high 10 kills in last Tuesday’s sweep of Boscobel.
Emma Lawrence, Jr., MH, Benton volleyball
Lawrence had a team-high 21 kills, nine blocks and five aces along with her 14 digs in a 25–16, 26–24, 25–18, sweep over defending Six Rivers West champion River Ridge on Monday, Sept. 19. She also had 17 kills, five blocks and two aces in a 25–22, 25–12, 25–23, sweep over host Belmont on Tuesday, Sept. 13, and she tallied 38 kills, 30 digs, 13 blocks and four aces to lead the Zephyrs to three wins and the title at their own tournament in Benton on last Saturday. The Zephyrs (17–1–1 overall, 6–0 SRW) swept their way through their West foes without dropping a set to grab sole possession of the conference lead ahead of the Timberwolves (5–1), and Coach Russell Hamm’s squad has been so dominant on the court they have not dropped a single set in their last 14 matches, dating back to the season-opening tournament at Monticello. The Zephyrs have won 42 of the 45 sets they have played this season and have a current 34-set winning streak.
John Ross Linscheid, Sr., QB/DB, Highland football
JR Linscheid went 5 of 10 passing for 118 yards with a TD and an interception, and he led the Cardinals’ rushing attack with 92 yards on 24 carries. On defense, he recorded a team-high eight tackles with a sack, and he forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass in a 25–22 victory over seventh-ranked and previously unbeaten Shullsburg on the Miners' Homecoming Day at Badger Park on Saturday, Sept. 17. With the Miners driving in for a potential go-ahead score with just over two minutes remaining in the game, Linscheid make back-to-back spectacular first-down saving tackles at the Highland 10-yard line to seal the victory.
Drew Hennessey, So., WR/DB/K, Highland football
Hennessey kicked the eventual game-winning 27-yard field goal with just over six minutes remaining to lift Highland (5–1, 4–0 SRC) to a 25–22 victory at Shullsburg last Saturday afternoon. Hennessey also rushed seven times for 72 yards, caught three passes for 83 yards and a score and kicked a pair of extra points in the win. His 50-yard touchdown catch gave the Cardinals a 22–8 lead late in the second quarter. Highland will host fellow Six Rivers leader Pecatonica/Argyle (4–0, 4–0 SRC) Friday night at Tyler Field.
Jordan Williams, Sr., QB, Fennimore football
Williams completed 10 of 13 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns and added an eight-yard touchdown run, all in the first half, to lead the Golden Eagles’ 56–0 Homecoming victory over Boscobel. Williams threw a 14-yard TD pass to junior Liam Kenney, a 15-yard scoring strike to junior Trevor Neuroth and a 68-yard bomb to sophomore Reid Larson.