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Max Johnson’s big plays in Hazard’s upset win lead to Player of the Week honor

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 6:38 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - The Hazard Bulldogs didn’t start the season as they hoped, going 0-5 early on.

“It wasn’t what we expected. You know we expect to come out and win every game that’s what we want, but to come out 0-5, it really shows what heart you have next game,” Sophomore Max Johnson said.

The Bulldogs didn’t get their first win to Week 7. But since October 16, they haven’t seen another loss.

“Give the credit to our coaches and our kids who came in every day and didn’t give up,” Dan Howard said, Hazard’s first year head football coach. “Just came in ready to fight no matter what our record was.”

In the district finals, the Bulldogs had a chance to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the 2020 season against district foes and defending Class 1A champions, the Pikeville Panthers.

“We go in there we had nothing to lose,” Johnson said. “We’re the underdogs. We had nothing to lose, just play for our seniors because it could be their last game.”

With two interceptions, a pick six and a rushing touchdown, Max Johnson and Hazard stunned many across the Commonwealth of Kentucky with a 21-12 victory.

“it was just like the play was happening in slow motion. Whenever I was sitting like this taking it all in I was just like, ‘Man, I really did that,” Johnson said of his game-clinching pick six late in the fourth quarter. “You know, right after I was like - I already want to relive that moment, you know.”

“You know for him to come out and fumble the first play of the game, then come back to play the way you did really shows you what kind of character he has and what kind of player he is,” Howard said of his sophomore standout.

With the win, the Bulldogs have a chance to win a region title for the first time since 2016.

“I think we like to be underdogs, you know?” Johnson said. “So if you don’t believe in us, that’s alright. We’re going to go out there and play our hardest and Davion Strode says shock the nation.”

Johnson finished with 107 rushing yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. He also co-lead Hazard in tackles with nine and had two interceptions, the latter of course a game-clinching play.

The Bulldogs will take on Paintsville on Friday night in the region final at 7:30 p.m.

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