Joey Dismuke and Nick SanFillipo both tell the same story.

Joey Dismuke and Nick SanFillipo both tell the same story.

The senior defensive linemen on the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team don’t talk about how the Johnnies had won their first nine games. The wins were piling up, but the one thing they remembered was the first drive for Fredericktown on Sept. 30.

The visiting Freddies and running back Matt Smith knifed through the Johnstown defense with ease, scoring on a four-play, 66-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

“We came off to the sideline and the coaches told us that everyone was making mistakes and to just forget about it and keep to their responsibilities,” SanFillipo said. “We did that and everything changed from there.”

After an early 48-yard run, Smith managed only 11 yards on nine carries. Fredericktown finished with 136 yards rushing, but the Johnnies won 41-7.

“We started playing better and got in better position,” Dismuke said. “You have to stay low. It doesn’t matter about your technique. If you don’t stay low, you can’t beat your man.”

Coach Mike Carter said his players needed to do more playing and less thinking.

“They were just getting used to game speed and sometimes it’s hard to simulate game speed in practice,” said Carter, whose team was 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the MBC before playing Northridge on Oct. 28. “But the big thing was that they needed to react instead of just thinking out there. That was the key to the whole process.”

Dismuke and SanFillipo anchor a defensive front that has stymied opposing offenses this season and averaged four sacks per game through nine contests.

Both are undersized — Dismuke at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds and SanFillipo at 5-8, 260 — but both insist that doesn’t limit their performance.

“I started as a defensive tackle as a sophomore, but I liked it a lot more when they moved me out to defensive end last year,” said Dismuke, a third-year starter who had 66 tackles and six sacks through nine games. “Out there, I was able to use my speed and I have gotten stronger and quicker since then.”

SanFillipo looks inside to get the most form his performance.

“You have to have more character than size,” said SanFillipo, a third-year starter with 51 tackles and eight sacks through nine games. “You have to play with heart. We have some defensive linemen who are 160 pounds, but they play with heart. Also, I have to play (opponents) low and use my height to my advantage.”

Carter said toughness comes into play with his two linemen.

“They both have a lot of heart and play with great intensity. They’re just tough kids,” Carter said. “It’s very important to be tough when you are in the trenches on every single play. Going one-on-one or even two-on-one, you have to be tough.”

The Johnnies are ranked seventh in the Division IV state poll behind top-ranked Kenton. They also are second in the Division IV district poll behind Hartley, which is ranked second in the state. Throughout the season, the team has gone by the motto “One team, one heartbeat.”

“I have grown up playing and working with the guys all these years, all of these games,” SanFillipo said. “We play for each other.”

The camaraderie has been therapeutic for Dismuke, helping him blossom from a shy middle-school student.

“I’ll miss how close we are,” Dismuke said about his senior season winding down. “I started playing in the seventh grade and didn’t know a lot of guys because I didn’t talk much. Now we’re all really good friends and we do everything together. “

The Johnnies are guaranteed one more home game when the playoff pairings are released Sunday, Oct. 30. Both players are happy to get one more opportunity to play at Chambers Stadium, but don’t know what to expect when the clock expires in that final contest.

“It definitely will be pretty exciting,” Dismuke said. “I can’t tell you what will happen yet, but it will probably be pretty emotional.”

“It will be different,” SanFillipo said. “The first time I walked on the field as a sophomore, it was a little intimidating, but this will definitely be emotional.”

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge football teams:

JOHNSTOWN-MONROE

*Oct. 21 — Defeated East Knox 62-20. Ross Franklin had 208 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 14 carries and quarterback Matt Smith ran for 61 yards and one score on seven carries. Fullback Adam Carter had two touchdowns.

*Oct. 28 — Played Northridge

Nov. 5 — Home vs. team to be announced Oct. 30 in first round of Division IV, Region 15 playoffs

Of note: The Johnnies were 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the MBC before Oct. 28.

NORTHRIDGE

*Oct. 21 — Lost to Loudonville 49-2

*Oct. 28 — Played Johnstown

Of note: The Vikings were 3-6 overall and 0-6 in the MBC before Oct. 28.

*League contest