Longhorns in top form as they defeat Sullivan East
By Jonathan PleasantThe Longhorns were on a roll Friday night against the visiting Sullivan East Patriots. After playing through a tough first quarter, Johnson County managed to get the upper hand with the first touchdown of the game and didn’t let up for the rest of the evening. Both the defensive and offensive lines put up a great performance, highlighting the team’s recent success with at 42-12 victory.
“We really turned it on this week,” said Coach Mike Atwood. “We beat on ourselves for two weeks and they sure wanted to hit somebody on another team and they came out and played well. We’re not a flashy team, but as long as we get the job done I’m happy. I don’t care what the score is; I just want to win the ballgame. That mentality has finally come over to our boys and I feel like they do whatever it takes to win.” After having a week off to prepare, the Longhorns were in top form, making some big stops on the defense while at the same time punching holes on the offense.
Players like Connor Icenhour ensured that the Patriots had a difficult time moving the ball, with several plays actually resulting in a loss of yards. “We were just hitting on all cylinders,” Icenhour said. “All the practice, all the drills, it all just came together for us. There are a few things we could have done better, but we knew that we had to bring it up because they killed us last year and we want to be in the playoffs this year. We’re bringing Longhorn football back.”
Although the game got off to a slow start with neither team able to get on the scoreboard in the first quarter, there were still several strong plays from Johnson County that resulted in big gains, most notably a long pass by quarterback Warren Kerley to Chase Kleine only a few minutes into the game, and a series of first downs with Patrick South on the carry. As one of the younger players, Kerley is just beginning to get a feel for the position, but already Coach Atwood is expecting big things. “Kerley is getting a little bit better,” Atwood said. “If we can just get some experience and time on him he can start making some plays for us. Right now our running game has got to win ball games. Kerley does a good job of not turning the ball over and does a good job of running the offense, which is exactly what we’re asking of him. We’re a little bit more every game putting him in some situations where he’s got to make some tough plays.” Kerley seems to agree. “I feel really good,” the quarterback said. “I feel like I’m improving a little every day but I can still get better. I’ve got to give all the credit to our offensive line.” Truly a team effort, the offense had managed to push toward the end zone in the last seconds of the first quarter and by the beginning of the second, they were in a strong position to reach the goal line. In fact, following a final first down by South, the Longhorns were finally able to get on the scoreboard, 7-0 along with the extra point by Ryan Mahala.
Striving to get back in the game, East made several attempts at a pass completion but were unable to gain the necessary ground before turning the game back over on downs. Despite making a solid pass to Mahala to gain several yards, Johnson County was unable to make another score because of ground trouble of their own, forcing the Longhorns to punt. Only one touchdown ahead, it looked as though the game might be a close one, until a timely interception by Timmy Bellamy with four minutes left in the quarter. Followed up with a couple of good passes to both Bellamy and River Cazire, the Longhorns were back in sight of the goal line, landing the second touchdown of the night to put them at 14-0 at halftime.
“I’m proud of the offensive line, they played well,” Coach Atwood said after the game. “We had a couple injuries and had to put some new people in and they really stepped up and played hard and played well.” One of the players that had a standout performance was running back Jordan Grubb, who made some big plays especially in the second half. According to Atwood, “Jordan is a good back. We expect Jordan to do good things and he’s going to be a good runner for us. This was good for him. He needed it, we needed it and it was a big series for us. He’s low and he’s solid. That’s what we were trying to do, steadily move the ball forward. We did do a little bit better with the penalties today. There are a couple things that we need to correct, but other than that I thought we played well.”
Throughout the third and fourth quarters several players really began to pick up their game. Luke Poteet was one of the first to help secure a first down after the half, and it was only a few minutes before Johnson County had made a third touchdown, this time by Austin Kurtz. In less than a minute, Johnson County was in possession again following a recovery by Colton Phillips. With South back on the carry is was only a matter of time before the Longhorns scored yet again, landing them at 27-0 by the end of the third quarter.
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