By Mike Moguin
GTR Sports Writer
Most of Jenks’ starting offense from last season has graduated. That means new talent will be rising through the ranks as the 2019 campaign draws near.
Max Johnson, a 6’2”, 290-pound senior, is one of two offensive lineman returning to the Trojans’ unit. John Roberts, a 6’2”, 270-pound senior, is the other. Despite the losses of center Hunter Hoyt and left tackle Brady Latham, Johnson, hailed as being among the top lineman in the area, is expected to anchor the line and sees the new crop as a reloading effort.
Johnson played between both Latham and Hoyt at left guard in 2018. He is likely to alternate between that spot and center this season, he said.
“The challenges are at center,” Johnson said. “Last year, we had a really good center (Hoyt) who was really smart. He could make all our calls. So this year, it will be a matter of filling in his role, leading the offense, leading my offensive line, leading my unit to being the best we could possibly be.”
Despite the new look, Johnson believes this year’s line will be just as strong and solid as always.
“I don’t think it will be very different,” he said. “We’ve reloaded very well on the offensive line. We have some young guys playing and they’ll grow up the first few games of the season. They’ve gotten a lot better. Initially, there was a few changes in spring ball. But come this season, it’ll be like they’re (the guys lost to graduation) are playing again.”
Likely to fill the void vacated by Latham is Logan Nobles (6-6, 250, Junior),” Johnson said.
“He’s real lengthy, real tall, he reminds me a lot of Brady Latham,” Johnson said of Nobles. “Just his build and his aggressiveness. He has put on a little bit of weight. I’m really looking forward to playing with him this season.”
Among Johnson’s most memorable plays last season came in the first round of the playoffs in a game against Putnam City North.
“I remember we were on the 10-yard line coming in and they were running the ball behind me, and there was a big ole’ boy lined up across from me and I just locked up with him and drove him back,” he said. “He got mad and tried to flip me over himself. It was kind of a little pat on the back.
“That’s the fun part because they can’t do anything about it,” he said while laughing.
When it comes to NFL linemen, Johnson likes watching them all.
“I like seeing what they could do, anything that could help me get better,” he said.
Jason Kelce, a center for the Philadelphia Eagles, is a favorite of the Trojans’ lineman.
“He’s a shorter guy and so am I (Kelce stands 6-3 and weighs 282 pounds). I really look up to the way he plays,” Johnson said. “He’s really athletic, like, he’s really physical. He’s very, very good.
When it comes to a favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers are at the top of Johnson’s list.
Through the offseason, Johnson made gains in the weight room and he intends to see that it manifests on the gridiron.
“I’ve just gotten bigger, faster and stronger,” he said. “I’ve hit 500 on squat, 600 on deadlift and 315 on bench press, which is a lot better than going into last season.”
Reaching the Class 6AI state championship game last year was meaningful for the Trojans.
“It meant a lot to us. It was a big deal to us,” Johnson said. “Just being in the state title game after my sophomore year, which was when we started 0-4, it meant a lot to us to see how much work and effort we put into the offseason, and how it came out. We were all really proud of that at the end of the year.”
The Trojans settled for a runner-up finish with a loss to Broken Arrow in the state final. When asked if there was anything his team could have done differently, Johnson said, “No. We gave it everything we had.”
The result, however, has served as a launchpad through the offseason.
“Absolutely,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to always be back in the state championship game. But, we’re focusing on ourselves getting one percent better everyday, something our strength coach has talked about a lot and that’s going to lead in the season, even in practices.”
Jenks opens the season Aug. 30 at Mansfiled (Texas) Legacy, then will play its home opener against defending Class 6AII state champion Bixby on Sept. 6. They will play at rival-Union on Sept. 13, then after an off-week, it will be a rematch of the Class 6AI title game at home against Broken Arrow on Sept. 27.