In beating North Penn for the second straight year, Johnson and company limited the hosts to 112 yards (85 rushing, 27 passing) and five first downs.
"The thing that makes our defense strong is that we play as a group and we communicate really well," the 5-foot-11, 285-pounder said.
Johnson is a third-year starter for the Prep. On offense, when the Hawks go with a "heavy" package against an unbalanced front, he serves as an extra tackle.
Of his rock-solid abilities as a run-stuffer, he said: "What helps me is that I'm built low to the ground, and I get off the ball pretty well."
Johnson is joined up front by fellow tackle Joe DuMond, a freshman, and senior ends Jim Mooney and Shane Williams.
Late in the first quarter against North Penn, after Mooney deflected Austin Shearer's attempted screen pass, DuMond plucked it out of the air and went 17 yards for a touchdown that put the Prep in front, 21-0.
"It took a while for them to get that play going," Johnson said. "By the time they did, we were there waiting on it. We got good penetration."
Knights tailback Kyle Mayfield, who came in averaging 117 yards rushing per game, was held to 27 yards on 11 tries.
The Prep's other leaders on defense are senior linebackers Todd Jones and Tim Rafter, sophomore cornerback John Reid, and senior strong safety Dan Sherry.
Johnson's sophomore brother, Tom, starts at free safety for the Hawks. In the season opener, the 5-11, 185-pounder's late interception helped secure a 16-7 win over Cocoa (Fla.).
"There are a lot of similarities in the way we play and prepare for a game," Paul Johnson said. "We're both pretty aggressive when it comes to tackling."
Paul Johnson is also a standout on the mat. Last season as a heavyweight, he became the first Prep wrestler to win an individual Catholic League crown in six years and the first Hawk to qualify for the PIAA state tournament.
"I've wrestled since kindergarten," said the defending Southeast Regional titlist, who honed his skills with the Moorestown Youth Wrestling Club. "A lot of it comes naturally to me."
Johnson's father, also named Paul, played football at York Catholic and Holy Cross. Like Paul and Tom Johnson, brothers James, 13, and Liam, 10, play football and wrestle.
Paul Johnson, who is thinking of majoring in history or political science in college, is drawing football interest at the Football Championship Subdivision (Monmouth, Stony Brook) and Division III (Amherst, Johns Hopkins, Catholic University) levels.
Giving back. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain, in town for Sunday's 24-23 loss to the Eagles, made an undisclosed financial contribution to his alma mater, George Washington High.
Washington used the money to establish Hudl.com accounts for all of its players, allowing them to watch game and highlight footage.
Running wild. On Friday, Thomas Tyner, a 6-foot, 205-pound senior at Aloha High (Beaverton, Ore.), rushed for 644 yards and 10 TDs in an 84-63 triumph over Lakeridge. According to USA Today, both marks rank third in prep history.
In 1950, John Giannantonio ran for a national-record 754 yards in a Netcong (N.J.) victory. For the season, he averaged 594.5 rushing yards.
Quotable. Downingtown East coach Mike Matta on Pennsbury's Daquan Mack, a 6-1, 255-pound senior fullback: "He's a load. You run that kind of offense [wing-T], you need a kid like that to be successful."
Extra points. In La Salle's 38-6 triumph over visiting Cardinal O'Hara Saturday, junior linebacker Zaire Franklin posted seven tackles, including three solos, for the Explorers. Fellow linebackers Mike Eife (four solos, including a first-quarter sack) and Trent Simmons each made five stops. . . . For O'Hara, which led by 6-3 at the end of the first quarter, junior linebacker Nolan Cummings notched six tackles, including five solos. Next in line for the Lions were safety Joe DeMaio (five tackles) and cornerback Thaddius Smith (four solos). . . . The 31-3 loss to St. Joe's Prep was North Penn's worst defeat since 2007, when the Knights were blanked by Neshaminy, 35-0, in a District 1 Class AAAA playoff quarterfinal. . . . Against North Penn, Hawks junior Chris Martin hit on 11 of 18 throws for 87 yards. He carried 14 times for 90 yards. On his first-quarter TD throw, freshman wideout Cameron Chambers made an over-the-shoulder grab in the left corner of the end zone.
Rick O'Brien: The Inquirer TOP 10
Records are through Saturday.
Last week's rankings in parentheses.
1. La Salle (1) 3-0
2. Downingtown East (2) 3-0
3. St. Joseph's Prep (5) 3-0
4. Arch. Wood (6) 2-1
5. Garnet Valley (7) 3-0
6. Ridley (8) 3-0
7. North Penn (3) 1-2
8. Roman Catholic (9) 2-1
9. Malvern Prep (10) 2-1
10. Coatesville (NR) 2-1
Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Central Bucks South (3-0), Imhotep Charter (3-0), Neshaminy (2-1), Pottsgrove (3-0), Souderton (2-1), Unionville (2-1).
- Rick O'Brien
Contact Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @ozoneinq. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone