HELENA — Helena High senior Alex Johnson, who recently committed to play football for Montana State, has been selected the Independent Record’s 2018 Football Defensive Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Johnson has helped the Bengals to a combined record of 18-6 over the past two seasons with appearances in the 2017 state title game and the playoff semifinals this fall.
He is a two-time first-team all-stater, at safety last year and outside linebacker as a senior, and was this year’s Western AA Conference Defensive MVP. The versatile Johnson was also selected a 2018 honorable mention all-stater at tight end.
He led this year’s team with 99 total tackles and 48 assisted tackles, and was No. 2 with 51 solo tackles, eight pass breakups and 233 defensive points.
“That is really awesome,” Johnson said, when learning of the player of the year selection. “It is great to be recognized, however, there’s no way I’d be able to have an impact without the other players on our defense that helped me out.”
Helena coach Scott Evans said Johnson is “a hybrid player, or what we call a creature who can roam” anywhere on the field.
“AJ played at least 6 different positions for us between offense and defense,” Evans said. “Defensively, we could have him rush the passer one play and the next play have him cover our opponent’s best receiver. AJ plays in space as well any player we have had here.”
A three-sport athlete, Johnson is on pace to earn nine varsity letters for the Bengals; four in basketball, three in football and two in track and field. He has been timed in 4.81 seconds in the 40 yard sprint, and owns a vertical leap of 30 inches.
One of Johnson’s best defensive efforts this fall came in the playoffs, when Helena avenged an early season loss to Glacier, 21-7, to reach the semifinals.
He led the Bengals with 27 defensive points, consisting of seven total tackles (three solo, four assists), two tackles for loss, one sack, two hurries and a pass breakup.
Another big game came in a 34-28 overtime win over Missoula Sentinel, when he amassed 30 defensive points, which included eight solo tackles (11 total), two quarterback hurries, a tackle for loss of yardage and a pass breakup.
For his career, Johnson stands No. 3 on Helena’s all-time list with 21 pass breakups and is tied for fourth with seven career interceptions.
“I would just like to thank my coaches and my family, for everything,” Johnson said.
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