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DeLand duo of De'Ante 'Pop' Saunders and Shontrelle Johnson dominating
DeLand junior De'Ante Saunders doesn't know why he got the nickname "Pop," but he does know he has had the moniker for as long as he can remember.
"I was told that my dad gave it to me when I was born," Saunders said. "He just started calling me that before I even left the hospital."
The nickname stuck with Saunders, or "Primetime Pop," as he is known by the public-address announcer at Spec Martin Stadium. But when Saunders was joined by Crescent City transfer Shontrelle Johnson in the Bulldogs' backfield, a new term was born.
"You get two shots and that's why people call us the 'Double Barrel,' because if one of us isn't having a good game, then the other person does," said Johnson, a senior.
So far this season, both have been valuable centerpieces in the Bulldogs' offense, which has scored 158 points with Thursday night's 42-0 victory against Port Orange Spruce Creek.
"They are both extremely hard workers in the weight room and out at practice," DeLand Coach Kevin Pettis said. "Their preparation helps them do what they do."
The pair was especially effective Sept. 18 in DeLand's 49-48 victory against Daytona Beach Seabreeze.
Saunders, a junior, racked up 399 total yards and three touchdowns while Johnson added three more scores. Saunders' big night was highlighted by a 97-yard kickoff return to Seabreeze's 2-yard line as well as touchdown runs of 63 and 34 yards.
Johnson, who entered the contest as the Bulldogs' leading rusher, had 124 yards on the ground.
"You worry about being able to tackle them because if you get one-on-one, there's not many one-on-one tackles being made on those guys," Seabreeze Coach Marc Beach said. "They misdirect you, and once they get vertical on you, they are tough to tackle.
"When we weren't in the right spot, they hurt us."
DeLand (4-0), which will face host Seminole on Friday night, has employed the two standouts in a variety of ways, making the Bulldogs difficult to defend. They are ranked fifth in the Sentinel Super 16.
Saunders has started at quarterback, running back and cornerback, and played on special teams as a return man. He is projected as a defensive back in college, but that's if he decides to play football. He also plays basketball for DeLand and has received several offers for both sports, including from Ole Miss, Texas Tech, South Carolina and Clemson.
He also recently received a football offer from Florida State.
Johnson, who is ranked No. 16 on the Sentinel's Central Florida Top 100 for 2010, has seen action as the team's starting running back and safety. The Northwestern commit also returns kicks.
"We bring so much to the table," Johnson said. "It's kind of hard to key on two players, and that's what our playbook revolves around."
So how do you stop them?
"I don't think you can with us being in the backfield," Saunders said.
Said Johnson: "If we execute every play to the best of our abilities, regardless of what the defense's mentality is, I don't think [the defense] could stop us."
Brentley Romine can be reached