Both teams on 4-game win streaks into City League championship game

Start quarterback Dexter Johnson has rushed for 304 yards and passed for 260 after taking over as quarterback four games ago
Start quarterback Dexter Johnson has rushed for 304 yards and passed for 260 after taking over as quarterback four games ago

The stage is set. The mission is clear.

It's been a while since either Start or Bowsher have captured a City League football championship. Start's last title was in 1978 — defeating Bowsher 41-6 in the Shoe Bowl game that previously decided the champion.

Bowsher's last title came the following season when Rebels topped the Spartans 16-14.

The latest tug-of-war between Start (5-4, 4-0 CL) and Bowsher (5-4, 4-0 CL) with the championship on the line takes place Friday night at Start.

The winner walks away with the CL crown.

"It's a great situation when you have two undefeated City League teams playing in week 10," Start coach Tyson Harder said. "Our kids are excited and from what I hear their kids are also excited about the game. It would be phenomenal for us [to win the title]."

Both teams enter the contest riding four-game winning streaks and have had little trouble disposing of league counterparts.

"This is shaping up the way a league championship should with two undefeated teams playing against each other," Bowsher coach Craig Lubinski said. "We're a power team and I see Start as a speed team."

Start's four-game win streak commenced under plenty of midseason uncertainty for the Spartans.

Dexter Johnnson, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound senior, stepped in at quarterback for injured Arthur Phillips. He has provided a level of stability. The cornerback/halfback represents the third player to try his hand as the signal-caller after Phillips went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Since Johnson has stepped in, the Spartans have not lost.

He's been efficient and steady, completing 18 of 36 passes for 260 yards and rushing for 304 yards on 59 carries, including six TDs.

"The only thing Dexter has done for us every week is won," Harder said. "He doesn't have an arm like Arthur Phillips, but we've tried to put him in situations that best suit his skills."

Start was 1-4 when Johnson took over the offense. The Spartans have outscored league opponents 144-36.

"It was rough at the start, but I've learned by talking to the other quarterbacks and they've been helping me out," Johnson said.

William Goodbar leads the team with 16 receptions for 363 yards, including six TDs. Deshawn Woodward has gained 697 yards rushing on 98 carries, including six touchdowns.

Woodward, who gained a career-high 288 yards on 26 carries in a 42-28 win over Waite, said the Spartans have steadily improved their "team chemistry" each week.

The Spartans are now facing their toughest challenge.

Bowsher junior quarterback Mac Jewell has completed 61 of 113 passes for 757 yards.
Bowsher junior quarterback Mac Jewell has completed 61 of 113 passes for 757 yards.

Rebels junior quarterback Mac Jewell directs an offense that has outscored its CL competition 170-19, an average score of 43-6 per contest.

Jewell has been steady as the director of the attack, completing 61 of 113 pass attempts for 757 yards, including four touchdown completions.

Tyshawn Rodgers, Kenny Jones and Steven Johnson have been his primary targets.

Rodgers leads the pass-catching trio with a team-leading 20 receptions for 232 yards. Jones has pulled in 17 passes for 306 yards, including four touchdowns. Johnson has caught nine passes for 117 yards and has scord three touchdowns.

"Mac Jewell has been a leader on and off the field," Lubinski said. "For us, he's in total control of the offense. He's like a coach on the field."

Yet, the Rebels have also held up well running the ball.

Khane Collins enters with 739 rushing yards on 122 carries, including a team-high six touchdowns. Johnson (400 yards on 82 carries) and Rodgers (386 yards on 76 carries) have also been productive.

Lubinski expects that both teams will be put to the test.

"Start is huge and very, very fast," Lubinski said. "We're going to have to work at trying to slow them down.

"We've worked hard to be at this point of the season and we'll see what happens. It certainly appears to be a matchup to remember."