2023 All-County Soccer: Johnson’s energy, skills propelled Missy Gators to new heights
Published 4:00 am Sunday, March 19, 2023
Amari Johnson is a little ball of energy that never seems to sit still.
The Vicksburg High freshman plays four sports, zipping from one to the other as quickly as she does on the field.
“I try to keep myself busy. I can’t sit down. I need to go and do something and be active. I try to be young. I try to be involved with the school,” Johnson said.
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In between her other three sports, Johnson found time to play — and excel — in what she says is her favorite. It might also be her best.
Johnson scored a team-high 16 goals and led Vicksburg’s soccer team to the Region 4-5A championship and its first playoff victory in more than a decade. She was a catalyst for the team’s success, and is now the 2023 Vicksburg Post girls soccer Player of the Year.
“It feels very good, because I have worked very hard to get here. I’ve been playing soccer since I was 4 years old with the VSO,” Johnson said. “I’m just happy that I got to this point. To say I’m just a freshman in high school, some people don’t get this until they’re a senior.”
Johnson was an All-County selection each of the past two seasons — she totaled 14 goals and seven assists — but found a new gear this year. She was often the fastest player on the field, which made her a threat to get the ball and score at any moment.
Vicksburg coach Samantha Bailey said Johnson’s breakout season came as she’s learning to pair knowledge of the game with her physical gifts.
“The past two years it was really hard for her to harness her speed because she was always super fast and would get called offsides,” Bailey said. “This year her awareness of the field and where she was, and with her knowledge of the game, she was able to read those defenders so much better so she wasn’t getting called offside and could use that breakaway speed.”
Johnson’s soccer skills aren’t limited to scoring goals, however. In an ironic twist, she’s almost as good at standing in one place and stopping them.
Johnson played five games as Vicksburg’s goal keeper when starter Ava Pritchard was out. She made seven saves in a 2-0 loss to Ridgeland late in the season, with one of the goals coming on a penalty kick.
Johnson doesn’t mind filling in at keeper, but her heart is now set on scoring goals.
“I like it. But when I started playing forward, I just love running around, kicking the ball and scoring goals,” she said. “When you score a goal it feels good. It feels good stopping a ball, but it feels better scoring a goal and everybody’s cheering you on.”
Johnson certainly heard a lot of cheering this season. Her 16 goals were the most of any player in Warren County, and breakaway chances became her signature move. She said she tries to play possum with defenders until it’s time to and strike.
“I’m probably one of the fastest, so breakaways are the main way,” Johnson said. “It’s very exciting, because nobody sees it coming. The defense doesn’t think I’m fast because I try to hold my speed because they call offsides. When I break away they’re trying to catch up.”
Keeping up with Johnson — on or off the field — is difficult. She plays for Vicksburg’s volleyball team in the fall, and then shifts to soccer in the winter. Currently, in the spring, she’s a starting outfielder for the softball team and one of the state’s top lightweight powerlifters.
Johnson qualified for the MHSAA Class 5A state powerlifting meet in the 105-pound weight class. She’ll compete at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson on March 31.
“I wanted to get stronger and all that, so I just did it,” she said of joining the powerlifting team.
Besides her athletic ability, Bailey said Johnson brought a spark to the soccer team in other ways. As cheerful as she is energetic, Johnson was a strong locker room presence that contributed to the Missy Gators’ success.
Vicksburg finished with a 9-4-3 record and beat Columbus in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs for its first postseason victory since 2010.
“She’s a lot of fun. You never know when she’s going to break away. You get her on the field and she’s fun to watch. Yes, she’s fast and she can score. But she can also get out of some tight situations. She has great ballhandling skills. To see her dribble in and out of some of those players is always a good time,” Bailey said. “And then to have her in the fieldhouse and the huddle … she’s that personality that’s always trying to cheer people up.”
MORE ALL-COUNTY SOCCER COVERAGE
• Girls’ All-County Team
• Boys’ All-County team
• Warren Central’s Ndiaye wins boys’ Player of the Year award
• Vicksburg’s Bailey wins Coach of the Year award
Vicksburg Post Girls Soccer Players of the Year
2023 – Amari Johnson, Vicksburg
2022 – Trinity McGloster, Vicksburg
2021 – Gloria Hall, Warren Central
2020 – Madelyn Polk, Warren Central
2019 – Brantlee Richards, St. Aloysius
2018 – Mary Ranager, St. Aloysius
2017 – Mikayla Banks, Vicksburg
2016 – Sara McDaniel, St. Aloysius
2015 – Mikayla Banks, Vicksburg
2014 – Mikayla Banks, Vicksburg
2013 – Tabitha Hayden, Vicksburg
2012 – Lindsey Barfield, Warren Central
2011 – Riley Griffith, St. Aloysius
2010 – Tabitha Hayden, Vicksburg
2009 – Rebecca Wilson and Diari Gilliam, Vicksburg
2008 – Kristine Fischenich, Warren Central
2007 – Mary Clare Scurria, Warren Central
2006 – Andrea Harrison, St. Aloysius
2005 – Emily Coker, Warren Central
2004 – Brandi Parker, Vicksburg
2003 – Brandi Parker, Vicksburg
2002 – Brandi Parker, Vicksburg
2001 – Courtney Chapman, Vicksburg
2000 – Courtney Hubert, Warren Central
1999 – Kristin Chapman, Vicksburg