Longhorns suffer big loss at hands of Tennessee High
By Jonathan PleasantThe Longhorns officially started off their football season with a big challenge, traveling to Bristol to face the Tennessee High Vikings. Although the game started off with a solid showing from Johnson County that eventually gave them a 12-8 lead, a combination of trouble from turnovers and the Viking’s intense speed and passing game cost the Longhorns dearly by the end of the night. Tennessee High was the first to reach the end zone, putting up a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the first five minutes of the game. Taking over the ball at the 35-yard line, the Longhorns fell back on their steady ground game. Patrick South and Jordan Grubb did a good job on the carry, and with a few timely passes to receivers like Greg Roark, Johnson County quickly moved down the field. An incomplete pass with just over four minutes on the clock saw the Longhorns at fourth and four from the 22-yard line. A flag on the play for interference cost the Vikings and Johnson County dodged a bullet with a first down.
South continued to be the lead carry, eventually getting his team close enough for quarterback Warren Kerley to deliver the first Longhorn touchdown of the night himself. Johnson County hoped to make up Tennessee High’s extra two points but failed in their own conversion. Trailing 6-8, a little luck came the Longhorns way as Seth Billingsley picked up a critical Viking fumble. Taking back over the ball, South made a couple more strong runs, both resulting in first downs. In all, the senior running back had over 30 carries through the game, giving each one everything he had.
“Patrick would play it 40 times if we asked,” said head coach Mike Atwood. “He wants it as much as he can get it and as long as it’s helping us he’ll take it. If something else is working better he doesn’t care to do that either. He’s a team guy. He’s in great condition, worked hard all summer, and he can run it as much as we need him to.”
With a strong offensive line backing them up, the Longhorns were once again in position to score. With only 43 seconds left in the quarter Johnson County’s coaching staff took a gamble and made an attempt at a pass. Fortunately, receiver Greg Roark was right on target, closing the first quarter out with the Longhorns on top 12-8. Regrettably, as much as that early Viking turnover helped Johnson County, a series of devastating fumbles and interceptions cost the visiting team dearly in the second.
Making a few huge passes, resulting in 20 and 30 yard runs, Tennessee High was quick to take back the lead with back to back touchdowns thanks to a fumble while receiving the return. Now at 12-27, the Longhorns were showing the first signs of dismay, and with a critical Viking interception just before the half, began a troubling downward spiral. By the time the clock finally ran out the Vikings had already climbed to 41 on the scoreboard and it was clear that the victory hoped for early in the game was fast disappearing.
“We did some good things, but with those turnovers we started to get behind a little bit and that’s not our game,” said Coach Atwood. “We can’t play that. We’re not very good at it and it snowballed from there. Athletes like that when they get a chance to put it on you they do. Turnovers always change the game. That’s just the way it is. Whoever has the most turnovers will lose the game almost every time, especially when you are playing somebody like them, because they can take advantage of things. What we were trying to do was hold the ball and run time off the clock, but we turned it right back over and they make a big play. It was over when that happened.”
The second half went from bad to even worse. Once again the quarter got started off with a huge Viking touchdown thanks to some big passes. Unfortunately, as much as Tennessee High’s offense began to pick up, Johnson County’s shut down. Despite a couple of very good first downs by Austin Kurtz, Aaron Osborn, and Jordan Grubb, the Longhorns remained inconsistent. Plagued by continued mistakes that would more often than not see Tennessee High pick up the ball, Johnson County simply could not stem the tide of Viking advancements.
“We couldn’t run with them,” said Atwood. “We knew that when we were coming down here. We tried to change some things to maybe foul them up, but then they threw those two little out patterns and got some distance. We had guys in position but they couldn’t make the plays. We want to run the ball and throw when we need to or when they don’t expect us to. We’re not going to throw it all over the field like they can.”
By the end of the third quarter the discrepancy in points had reached more than 32 and the clock ran almost constantly. Even with the end fast approaching, the Vikings continued to climb, eventually pulling out the win 62-12. The one bright spot at the end of the evening was a special ceremony to award the best offensive and defensive players from each team. Sponsored by the Jericho Shriners, Aaron Osborn was chosen for the Longhorn’s defense, while Patrick South claimed offense. Receiving the trophies on the center of the field, the awards were a bittersweet end to a very sobering game.
Although such a big loss was tough to swallow, Coach Atwood was confident that his team would be able to put this misstep behind them. “We’ll be fine,” Atwood said. “We’ll bounce back and be alright. We knew we were going to be coming down here to a tough game. This isn’t going to ruin the season. Its tough, but it showed us a lot of things we need to work on. We made some mistakes, but we can fix most of the things we did tonight. It’s going to be a tough two weeks of practice, I can tell you that.”