Last year, Caleb Johnson was just one of a handful of talented Northern Lehigh football players that helped the team reach the District 11 AA championship game for the third consecutive season.
Whereas Johnson was sometimes the third or fourth option in the Bulldogs' offensive attack in 2011, this year the senior has become the team's focal-point.
Johnson once again took his newly acquired role and ran with it - literally - as he rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns in last Friday's 38-6 victory over Salisbury. That wasn't all though, as the running back-slash-tight end also caught two balls for 63 yards and another score. All-in-all he accounted for over 53 percent of Northern Lehigh's offensive output.
Last week's performance did two things for Johnson and his teammates. One: it got the Bulldogs back in the win column after suffering a tough loss to Palisades two weeks ago. And two: it helped Johnson earn the TIMES NEWS Football Player of the Week award for week number five.
"It's pretty cool to win this award," admitted the 6-4, 215-pound back. "I am always looking in the paper to see how everyone did. Plus, I am sure my grandma will enjoy putting it in the scrapbook."
Johnson had a big second quarter to say the least, as he scored all four of his touchdowns in the 12 minute frame. Johnson ran it in on three consecutive drives from 19, 4 and 2 yards out before hauling in a short swing pass and taking it 45 yards to the house to cap the 'Dawgs first-half scoring. From there the Northern Lehigh offense put it on cruise control as the team improved to 4-1 on the year.
"Everything was just clicking," Johnson said on his fantastic second quarter. "The offensive line was blocking well and the holes were open. I'd like to thank Kris Seiler, Cody Bowman, Cameron Kates, Nick Buresh, Jake Moser and Stephen Ingles a hundred times over. Hopefully they can keep it up for the rest of the year."
Much like last year, Johnson once again leads the Bulldogs' receiving corps with nine receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns. The big difference comes in the ground game. Last season Johnson didn't carry a single one of Northern Lehigh's 464 rushing attempts. This year is the exact opposite, as he leads the team in rushing yards (412), yards-per-carry average of guys with five-plus carries (7.63), and rushing touchdowns (six).
"I think he enjoys it," said Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout on Johnson's transition. "A couple of years ago we would have him run some tailback with the 'look team,' so he has some experience back there. But it wasn't until week two of this year that we decided to make the move of putting him in the backfield a lot more.
"We have a couple of weapons on offense, but we feel like we can score every time he touches the ball. He just runs so well when he gets a full head of steam. Last week he took a short screen pass in space and got running downhill and it was over. That's when he is the most impressive. He can really motor when he gets running downhill."
Johnson has started to reel off some long touchdowns as of late. Besides his 45-yarder last week, he recorded a 61-yard scoring run versus Palisades last week and a 74-yard touchdown pass against Saucon Valley the week before that. While one might think his all-state ability in the 400-meter dash could translate to the football field, Johnson said that his track practice may have made his legs stronger but that's about it.
Regardless of his vast improvements as an offensive threat, Johnson was just happy to get the win with a tough schedule approaching.
"It was a huge win," said Johnson. "It was nice to get back on the right track. We have a tough second half of the season coming up, starting with Pen Argyl this weekend, and it will definitely help."