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La Salle's 'unsung heroes' are helping to lead the Lancers during this football season

Posted at 11:09 AM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 20:23:08-04

GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — La Salle senior defensive tackle Mackie Johnson loves to talk.

"I feel like every time I walk into a room somebody is going to smile," Johnson said.

La Salle senior center Austin Rack prefers to let his actions speak for themselves as a three-year starter.

"I don't know if he said 10 words all year," La Salle football coach Pat McLaughlin said.

Despite different approaches, the goal is the same. Rack and Johnson want to help the Lancers return to Canton, where La Salle won the 2019 Division II state title.

"They're just great kids," McLaughlin said. "Like I said, they're complete opposites of each other. But the thing about them is they're workers, they're unsung heroes. We rushed for (268 yards) last week and that is partly because of Rack and the offensive line. Ninety percent is because of them. And we stopped the option (against Colerain). We kind of stuffed the middle last week again because of Mackie."

La Salle (1-0) will need that type of effort on the offensive and defensive lines Friday night as it prepares to play Winton Woods (1-0) in a non-conference matchup at Lancer Stadium.

"They play very hard. They're fast. So again, we got to be able to run the ball – we've got to be able to stop the run," McLaughlin said. "And for them we've got to eliminate big plays. They have a couple backs and receivers that if they get the ball out in space they can create a big play anytime."

For Rack, who is 6-foot 1-inch, 270 pounds, a captain with a 4.14 grade-point average and is interested in business and finance in college, La Salle football has a significant meaning.

"Just being with the team – all those guys – we all love each other," he said. "And obviously getting to come out on Friday nights and play for the community – not just the team, just everybody, all the parents, the fans – it's good times."

Rack has enjoyed working with former La Salle standout quarterback Zach Branham and now junior Mason Mattingly.

"Zach was obviously a great player," Rack said. "One of the best La Salle quarterbacks we've had. Then Mason came in. He's been a leader. He's loud, he talks clearly and he throws a nice ball. He runs hard. Just everything you want in a quarterback."

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"Rack is what you want in a center," McLaughlin said. "He was elected captain by his teammates... He leads by example – not necessarily a vocal leader. He's a very smart kid."

Johnson, who is 6-foot tall and 250 pounds, had six tackles in the Lancers' win over visiting Colerain last week. He said he's enjoyed the journey through the football program.

"I just love that this year we're all together," Johnson said. "It's like we're all one team. Everybody is fighting for the same thing and the same reason. So I just feel like everybody is ready. We're going to get to that against anybody we face."

Johnson said he learned leadership attributes from the likes of former La Salle standouts Jaylen Johnson (Ohio State), Devonta Smith (Alabama), Cam Porter (Northwestern) and Ben Blevins (Cincinnati).

"You don't have to be in the spotlight to be a leader," Johnson said. "You can be a leader from doing anything."

Johnson would like to study sociology and eventually work with children with developmental disorders.

For now, he's enjoying the moment as a senior. McLaughlin said he enjoys coaching Johnson and having him in his American history class.

"I'm very happy for him," McLaughlin said. "I'm not surprised by his success, just seeing him in the weight room and seeing him grow as a person the last couple of years."