Prep Rally

Unbroken Records: Johnny G’s single-game rushing standard

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

Each Wednesday, Prep Rally uncovers the story behind the most remarkable standards in high school sports for our Unbroken Records series. This week: Johnny G's feet feat.

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John Giannantonio set the nation's single-game rushing record of 754 yards in 1950.

John Giannantonio set the nation's single-game rushing record of 754 yards in 1950.

On back-to-back nights last week, a Texas wide receiver came within two yards of breaking the nation's single-game receiving record, and then a Michigan wideout eclipsed the mark by three yards. But that previous standard only stood for one season.

Prep football's single-game rushing record is an entirely different story. John Giannantonio set the standard for Netcong High (Netcong, N.J.) in 1950, rushing for 754 yards in a 61-0 victory against Mountain Lakes High (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) as a 5-foot-6.5, 137-pound sophomore.

While the official number of carries is unknown, Giannantonio told the National Federation of High Schools he toted the pigskin "probably every other play."

"I had no idea what I did," Giannantonio told The Star-Ledger in 2010. "I just knew I was tired. After the game, my coach put his arm around me and said, ‘How do you feel?’ I said, ‘Tired.’ He said, ‘Go take a shower, you’ll feel better.’ That was it."

Now a 79-year-old retired middle school math teacher still known as Johnny G. around his hometown of Netcong, Giannantonio describes the feat as his proudest moment other than the births of his children and grandchildren.

His childhood, as described in a 2010 NJ.com feature, was exactly as you'd expect -- a three-quarter mile walk to and from school (only uphill one way, but still), rags wrapped in elastic bands used as backyard footballs and Notre Dame games on the radio. And he still remembers the names of his offensive linemen, a quintet averaging about 190 pounds: Louie Esposito, Joe Verdi, Ronnie Savacool, Howard Gibson and Bobby Masters.

During his sophomore season, when Netcong fielded only 11 players and finished 8-0, Giannantonio rushed for 4,756 yards and 41 touchdowns in just eight games. His total yards in 1950 and 595.4 yards per game average from that season are also national records.

He led the Indians to an 8-1 record and reached 514 yards in a single game as a junior, according to MaxPreps, but transferred to the Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.) and was ruled ineligible as a senior. The transfer didn't scare off all his college suitors, and he accepted a four-year scholarship offer from Villanova, but even Johnny G. could never replicate that 754-yard effort as a sophomore.

Many have tried, and all failed. Paul McCoy of Matewan High (Matewan, W.Va.) came closest as a senior in 2006, rushing for 661 yards and 10 touchdowns on 28 carries against Burch High (Delbarton, W. Va.), but still fell 93 yards short of Giannantonio's mark. For the record, Matewan ran 37 plays that game, so McCoy received 75.7 percent of his team's touches.

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