Prep football: D'Ernest Johnson shakes off fumble, runs Immokalee to state title game

D'Ernest Johnson, #2 of Immokalee High, runs for yards, in their game against Jackson High, in the Class 5A state semifinal game, being played at Traz Powell Stadium, Friday, December 7th, 2012.

Photo by Peter Andrew Bosch

D'Ernest Johnson, #2 of Immokalee High, runs for yards, in their game against Jackson High, in the Class 5A state semifinal game, being played at Traz Powell Stadium, Friday, December 7th, 2012.

MIAMI — D'Ernest Johnson got a pep talk from former Immokalee standout and longtime NFL star Edgerrin James.

His message?

"Don't fumble the ball," the junior running back said with a smile.

Johnson did make a costly fumble in the first quarter, on a play coach Jerrod Ackley called a "bad read" and "not D'Ernest's fault."

That turnover came inside the Miami-Jackson 10 with Immokalee up 7-0 and in control of the game.

The Generals turned that fumble into an 85-yard scoring drive, knotting the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter, and the game remained tied at the half.

Johnson, a University of Florida commit, felt bad for letting James and, more importantly, his teammates down. He atoned for his mistake with a pair of second-half touchdown runs, giving him three for the game. He rushed for a game-high 127 yards on 26 carries in Immokalee's 29-21 win in a Class 5A semifinal game. Immokalee will face Tallahassee-Godby in Friday's championship game at 1:07 p.m. at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

"I was down after that (fumble), but my teammates told me to keep my head up and do what I gotta do," Johnson said. "I knew I had to keep working hard and things would turn out all right."

The Indians slowed themselves down in the first half with the three fumbles and were determined to eliminate the mistakes at halftime.

"We knew we had to keep running the ball, keep pounding it at them," he said. "We had to cut down on those mental mistakes and we did it."

The Indians have been known for a quick-strike offense with quarterback Tshumbi Johnson (D'Ernest's brother) and a host of talented receivers, but it's been the running game that has come to life since the Indians' last loss to Barron Collier.

"The big thing is our offensive line is creating a big push these last five weeks," Ackley said. "I think that's the difference in our football team. They were knocking guys off the ball all night, getting a great surge. The thing that D'Ernst does really well is we get that surge and he's able to break that first tackle and is able to get yards after that first contact."

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