Jackson and Johnson shine in early going for Monmouth-Roseville Titans

Barry McNamara
Special to the Review Atlas
CJ Johnson, left, and Jerome Jackson have put up big numbers through the first three games for the Monmouth-Roseville Titans

MONMOUTH — The Monmouth-Roseville football team found its way last season, but not before a humbling 42-7 loss to Kewanee in the opener. 

That made this year’s game against the Boilermakers that much sweeter, as M-R emerged from its first night of action with a 22-16 victory, keyed by the performances of a pair of seniors. 

From their running back position, Jerome Jackson and CJ Johnson combined for 252 yards of offense. Jackson, who scored three TDs, added seven tackles on defense, while Johnson made 16 stops from his linebacker spot, adding a sack and a key interception that helped seal the victory. 

The Titans have gone on to suffer narrow losses against Hall and Morrison, but Jackson and Johnson are still putting up big numbers. Through three games, the duo has rushed for 232 and 238 yards, respectively. Johnson had added 175 receiving yards and made 47 tackles. 

“This year, CJ is the best defensive player on the field,” said M-R head coach Jeremy Adolphson. “His size, speed and instincts allow him to make plays that I’ve seen very few times in my 24 years of coaching.” 

Interception by Johnson in opener impactful

It might not have been his hardest play of the night against Kewanee, but the interception by the 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior was the most impactful. With Kewanee driving in the fourth quarter to tie or take the lead, Johnson stepped in front of a Boilermakers' pass. All the Titans needed to do from there to salt the game away was post a first down, which they did. 

“On that play, I had their running back, and he came out of the backfield for a route,” Johnson said. “Their quarterback was scrambling, and I just stood in front of the running back and picked it off.” 

Johnson also made 16 tackles. 

“Last year against Kewanee, I came out with a concussion,” he said. “This year, even though they’re not exactly the same team, we wanted to prove to them that we were better than them. I don’t like losing. Early on, every time I made a tackle, it felt like they went down pretty easy. I thought, ‘This could be fun.’ I knew right then that they weren’t better than us.” 

“CJ made tremendous strides during his junior year playing multiple positions on offense and developing into one of our best overall players,” Adolphson said. “This year he will take over the feature role at running back,” which has led to him having 50 touches from scrimmage so far this season.  

Johnson even got in the act on another highlight play from the game — Jackson’s 65-yard run, which was featured on a TV newscast’s highlight package that night. 

Jackson demonstrates big play potential

“On my last touchdown, I took a pitch to the outside,” said Jackson. “I cut it up and just outran everybody. CJ was the lead blocker.” 

Johnson remembers the play well. 

“He juked a defender, and he was off to the races,” he said. “Nobody’s going to catch him. He’s the fastest guy on the team.” 

Johnson said the speedster is good to have on the squad for other reasons, as well. 

“He’s pretty goofy, but in a funny way,” he said. “Maybe he’ll do a little dance after scoring a touchdown, and we get hyped together before games.” 

Jackson’s coach appreciates his big-play potential. 

“Jerome played his first year of high school football last year,” said Adolphson of the 6-1, 180-pounder. “He made an immediate impact on our defense and was selected first team all-conference. This year, he will be a much bigger part of our offense, as shown against Kewanee. He has the capability to score every time he touches the ball.” 

And he nearly did in the opener, totaling three TDs on just six offensive touches. His long TD capped a 123-yard rushing night on just four carries. He also caught two passes for 19 yards, including a scoring strike from classmate Silas Braun. 

“We knew we could hang with them, and then after they scored their first touchdown, they stopped scoring,” said Jackson, who hadn’t yet attended enough practices last season to suit up versus Kewanee. 

Johnson split his 110 yards against Kewanee fairly evenly, a trend he continued in the Titans’ next two games. Jackson was asked to talk up his backfield mate. 

“He’s fast, too, and he’s one of the strongest kids on the team,” he said of Johnson. “He’s a good kid. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.” 

Titans look to rally from a 1-2 record to make playoffs

The Titans might, too. A year ago, M-R rallied from an 0-1 start to reach the playoffs. This year, they’ll have to overcome their current 1-2 record. 

“I feel like we can go pretty far,” said Jackson. “I think we can go deep in the playoffs. We’re pretty athletic this year, and we’re pretty deep.” 

Johnson agrees. 

“I think we can go to the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve got more athletes than most teams. If we play hard, nobody’s going to beat us.” 

Next up for the Titans this Friday night is a matchup at winless Sherrard. Although the Tigers will enter the game with an 0-3 record, they’ve been more competitive this season, as evidenced by seven- and six-point losses the past two weeks. 

Looking beyond the football season, Jackson and Johnson will also team up for the Titans’ basketball team this winter, and they’ll be active in the spring, as well. Johnson is a standout on the baseball team, while Jackson runs track. They both plan to continue their athletic careers in college, and their physical talents give them options. 

“I haven’t decided yet,” said Johnson. “I’m going to do the one I have the most fun at this year.” 

Academically, he plans to pursue a degree that will lead to a sales career, perhaps in the areas of medicine or agriculture. 

Jackson is hoping to continue his football career at the next level while studying business or marketing. 

“I want to get into investments and eventually have my own business — maybe in something like shoes or clothing,” he said.