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Orange County All-Star Football Game : Johnson Does What He Does Best in First Half : And That’s All North Quarterback Has to Play to Earn Offensive Player Honors

Times Staff Writer

If there was ever any doubt about which position Brett Johnson of El Modena High School should play once he gets to college, there shouldn’t be now.

At quarterback, Johnson led the North to a 30-16 victory in the 26th annual North-South all-star football game at Santa Ana Stadium Friday night and did it in a most convincing manner.

For his efforts, Johnson was named the most outstanding offensive player of the game, even though he only played in the first half.

Johnson helped the North to a 27-3 halftime lead by completing 11 of 15 passes for 140 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Keith Pontiflet of Esperanza.

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Johnson also scored two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks in the first half, all to mark not only the first time the North has scored in two years, but the first time it has won since 1977.

For Johnson, however, the victory was as much for his own future as it was for the North squad.

The El Modena graduate is heading to Tempe, Ariz., this fall to play at Arizona State, but sometimes major football colleges utilize athletes such as Johnson as defensive backs or wide receivers.

“That’s (quarterback) what I want to do in college,” Johnson said. “The funny thing was, I was real shaky in practice this week, but all the guys have been great. I had some pretty good receivers to throw to.”

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Picking up where he left off last fall in leading the Vanguards to the Southern Conference championship, Johnson was in midseason stride, throwing both short and deep passes with uncanny accuracy for a summer all-star game.

“Once the game started, it was easy to get into the flow,” Johnson said. “The hitting was crisp by both teams.” Unfortunately for the South, so were Johnson’s passes.

Johnson gave all the credit for the victory to his teammates. And with receivers such as Pontiflet, David Sepulveda and Ed Nasser, any high school quarterback would be happy.

Sepulveda, the county’s all-time passing receiver from Fullerton, caught a couple of short-range passes, and Pontiflet and Nasser took care of the deep ones.

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“A couple of times he (Johnson) made the call at the line,” Sepulveda explained of his quarterback’s signal calling. “It’s sort of like a baseball coach--he looks at the defense and then gives the receivers a signal as to where to go.”

The North’s best drive of the game came midway through the second quarter with the North nursing a 6-0 lead.

Taking over at its 29-yard line following a South punt, Johnson drove the North 71 yards in 9 plays for the score.

Mixing the running of Tim Byrnes of Sunny Hills and Richard Garcia of Fullerton with his passing, Johnson moved the North offense to the South’s 36-yard line, where he set up his team’s second touchdown of the game.

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First, he lulled the South defense into closing into the middle by hitting the dangerous Pontiflet on a curl over the middle for a 13-yard gain, putting the ball at the 23.

The very next play, Johnson rolled right and then arched a pass to the left corner of the end zone, where Pontiflet ran under it for the catch and score. The North led, 13-0.

“It was really a pleasure playing with him,” Pontiflet said of Johnson. “The guy really is a great passer and a real nice guy besides.”

Johnson can only hope that the pass receivers at Arizona State will be able to say the same thing about him this fall.

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