Brothers help power Englewood over Littleton

Pirates win 19-14 at home in football contest against Lions

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Englewood's football team used support from Johnson & Johnson as a cure for an inexperienced offensive line during a 19-14 win over Littleton in a penalty-filled game played Sept. 16 at Randy Penn Stadium, the Englewood Pirates' home field.

When we say Johnson & Johnson, we're not writing about the company that develops medical devices and pharmaceuticals, but instead about senior brothers Gunner and Hunter Johnson.

Hunter Johnson is a safety, kick returner and wide receiver. Gunner Johnson is the Pirates' quarterback.

Against the Littleton Lions, Hunter returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to give the Pirates a quick lead. Then with 2:33 left in the game, he caught a 13-yard scoring pass from Gunner Hunter to provide the winning margin after Littleton had grabbed a 14-13 advantage earlier in the final quarter.

“They are so competitive with one another, let alone with the other team,” Englewood coach Mike Campbell said about the Johnson brothers. “They are like energizing bunnies, man, they just play. We'd love to play Gunner on defense some but he hits so hard I'm worried he would be hurt. He doesn't know how to be a Deion Sanders and usher you out of bounds.”

Campbell then explained the important of having players like the Johnsons.

“We're struggling up front right now. We started two freshmen, two sophomores,” he said. “And we had a starting center get hurt in practice and we had a center that hadn't played in a varsity game. We have a lot of learning going on up front.”

It took Hunter Johnson just 14 seconds to push the Pirates into the lead with the opening kickoff return.

“It is always good to get off to a good start, especially our team,” said Hunter. “It's good to get that quick boost, get everybody pumped up and get the momentum on our side.”

Gunner Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 165-pounder just like his brother, was sacked by the Lions' Peter Braun on the Pirates' game-deciding drive, which pushed the ball back to the 13-yard line.

But he connected with his brother on the next play for the winning TD.

“I look for him all the time,” said Gunner. “He's going to be open and I throw him the football. It was a big win for us. We were down, only dressed 17 players.”

Littleton, which snapped a 29-game losing streak with a win over Denver Lincoln in this season's opener, was down coaches because of COVID protocols and defensive coordinator Ryan Wesley was the acting head coach.

“We were facing such an uphill battle,” said Wesley. “I'm actually the fill-in head coach. We have seven coaches on staff, four of which weren't able to be here. They got sick and were not able to be here.

“This was just last minute on Monday so we were rolling with just two coaches all the way up to the game and we got our third coach back. This was my first time having to call a varsity game. The guys came out and left it on the field. They fought hard.”

Junior Brycen Mhlanga set up both Littleton TDs with runs of 29 and 87 yards before being stopped at the one-yard line both times. Quarterback Timmy Higgins scored on quarterback sneaks both times and gave Littleton a 14-13 lead with 10:51 remaining in the game.

“What really hurt us was that opening kickoff,” said Wesley. “That's the extra points on that scoreboard. Their offense put up 12 so that one kind of is what it is.

“We come in to fight and we're trying to turn the program around. It's been a losing program for so long. If we have to go down, we go down swinging.”

Littleton, which is 2-44 over the past five seasons and hasn't had a winning record since 2009-10, had the ball briefly twice after the Johnson-to-Johnson scoring pass but couldn't generate an offensive push.

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