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Sandy Creek quarterback Rio Johnson was an early commitment to East Carolina, long before he began having a breakout senior season. And Johnson, who is considered by some scouts to be the state’s No. 1 senior quarterback, said he’s sticking by his commitment to the Pirates, no matter which other colleges approach him. “We had some colleges come in here and try to talk to Rio, but he’s very firm with East Carolina,” Sandy Creek coach Chip Walker said. “East Carolina told Rio from the beginning that he was the No. 1 guy they wanted, and offered him on spot on his visit to campus last summer. That went a long ways with Rio, and that’s why he doesn’t really have any interest in other schools. “East Carolina stuck by him before everybody else knew about him, and Rio is sticking by them because they believed in him before anyone else did. It worked out good for both parties.”
Sandy Creek has six seniors with college offers, and it may have more before the season is over. The high-profile prospects are quarterback Rio Johnson (committed to East Carolina) and defensive end Brandon Putnam (Duke). Others offers include defensive lineman James Hervey from East Carolina and Ohio University, safety Russell Bonner from Buffalo, linebacker Matt Solomon from Eastern Michigan and linebacker Alex Green from Charleston Southern. “We’ve got a long list of colleges that have requested film as the season progresses,” Sandy Creek coach Chip Walker said.
Just hours after tossing a 36-yard winning touchdown pass Friday night on the final play of Sandy Creek’s 17-16 upset victory over Shaw, quarterback Rio Johnson hit the highway for the seven-hour drive to Greenville, N.C. Johnson, who committed to East Carolina this summer, wound up witnessing arguably the biggest win in the school’s history after the Pirates slammed No. 8 West Virginia 24-3. “It was just great,” said Johnson, a member of the AJC’s The Georgia Top 150. “The game was sold out and the atmosphere was crazy. “They got the recruits out of there and off the sidelines with about 50 seconds left because they didn’t know what the fans would do.” It was the second trip to East Carolina for Johnson, who attended a camp there earlier this year. Johnson, who also has scholarship offers from Memphis, Ohio and UAB, said he’s set with East Carolina, even if an ACC or SEC program make a late run at him. “I’m 100 percent with East Carolina,” he said. “They liked me from the beginning. Other schools are just now noticing me. “And that game [on Saturday] made me smile a little more about my decision.”
Sandy Creek quarterback Rio Johnson, who committed to East Carolina, will be very busy over the next days. On top of football-related activities with Sandy Creek, Johnson will be attending Georgia Tech’s game on Thursday night with his teammate, defensive end Brandon Putnam, who has committed to Duke but is still being recruited by the Yellow Jackets. On Saturday, Johnson will be at Georgia’s game as a guest of Oconee County quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who has committed to the Bulldogs. The two quarterbacks became good friends after attending camps together over the years. “Yes, he’s a good friend,” Mettenberger said.
Sandy Creek’s Rio Johnson, who is a candidate to be the state’s top quarterback, said he is satisfied with his college choice. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Johnson committed to East Carolina last spring. He is still being recruiting by Memphis and Alabama-Birmingham, among others. However, Johnson said he is sticking with the Pirates. Johnson is a member of the AJC’s The Georgia Top 150 “East Carolina treated me well during my visit, and it feels like home every time I’m on the campus,” Johnson said. “They told me they were going to redshirt me my first year, so I can learn the offense. Then as a redshirt freshman, they were hoping to get me in the game some with the plan to compete for the starting position as a sophomore.” Johnson is a dual-threat at quarterback, just as effective running as he is passing the ball. He said he will likely scramble more this season with the loss of teammate Braxton Lane. Lane, who was considered one of the nation’s top wide receivers, decided to skip his senior season of football at Sandy Creek to focus on baseball. Lane, who had a football offer from Georgia Tech, said he has not ruled out returning to football in college.