Horns win over Dogs even with odds stacked against them
By Jonathan PleasantAfter a tough couple of weeks of losses. the Longhorns were finally able to pull together a unified game against huge local rivals, the Hampton Bulldogs. Although Johnson County did impressively well, the odds were certainly stacked against them. Not only were the Longhorns playing on Hampton’s home turf, but were also faced with several shortfalls in the roster due to injury and illness.
With a painfully narrow 0-6 loss a Happy Valley last week, all eyes were on the offense and especially on backup quarterback, Justin Pardue. “We challenged our guys and said our offensive line is what we were banking on,” said head coach Mike Atwood. “They had the chance to win a ball game for us and they did. Pardue is just a sophomore, a young kid who hasn’t had much varsity action and not any as quarterback. To get in there with two rivals that are tough teams in two big physical games that was tough for him, but everybody responded to him tonight. I was proud of him. He played very well. That’s all we asked of him. I said, ‘Pardue all you have to do is manage this game. No unnecessary turnovers. He did well. He grew up a lot tonight.”
Yet, Pardue himself acknowledged that the game could not have been nearly as successful without another excellent showing from the players on both the defensive and offensive lines. “Hampton put them in the box and got the ball out quick,” Pardue said. “I didn’t have a lot of time in the pocket, but I have to say our line did a good job and I had enough time to get two touchdowns. I have to hand it to Patrick South, he had a heck of a game tonight. Our defense was strong last week, and they did the same this week. They killed it.”
Johnson County relied heavily on South for the carry, trusting in him to make some phenomenal plays. Yet the first big break of the evening came thanks to a well-aimed pass to talented receiver Greg Roark who added nearly 30 yards for an early first quarter touchdown. Seizing the momentum, Johnson County put their trust in the defense to hold back the Bulldogs. With huge stops from players like Cole Peters and Jake Greer, Johnson County was more than able to hold their own. However, with neighboring players like Tristan Robinson and Boo Dugger on the other sidelines, the personal intensity of this match up ran fever high, even for a game against Hampton.
Hits were loud and painful from both sides of the field and both teams fought desperately for every inch of ground. The end result was that by the third quarter neither side had given way and Johnson County still maintained a tenuous lead at 7-0. Eventually the pressure had to break, and this time it was Alex Tressler who had a huge play, using his size and speed to take advantage of any holes in the defense. Tressler’s run helped put Johnson County within sight of a second touchdown and with another big pass to Roark, the Longhorns were standing at 14-0.
By this time it was quickly becoming make or break for the Bulldogs who brought it past the 20 yard line before finally having to turn over the ball on downs. The Longhorns didn’t have much luck offensively either and soon punts and turnovers were abounding on both sides. It wasn’t until the beginning of the fourth quarter that the Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard, which was almost immediately followed by a safety to put the score at 14-9.
Knowing what kind of team Hampton is, even Coach Atwood admitted that this sudden change was a key point in the game. Had the defense not held or the offense not made a solid effort the outcome could have been much different. Yet thanks to a little extra practice and a lot of hard work on the field, Atwood was able to compliment the team’s resilience.
“Hampton has a good team and we knew it was going to be hard to move the ball on them,” the Coach noted. “We got a few more things in this week in practice and did a little bit better. We got a little more offense in and Pardue played well. I’m just proud of them. They played hard and came out with a win. Hampton is always a big game, and was key from a morale standpoint. We felt like we outplayed Happy Valley last week and should have won the ball game but got beat, so it was important for our morale more than anything else.”
With less than four minutes in the game and the Bulldogs one touchdown away from the lead the pressure was high. Yet, practice and a little extra confidence kicked in and with help from the line a tag team of South and Pardue made the few big plays that Johnson County needed to seal the win with a final touchdown.
“I felt way better coming into this game compared to Happy Valley,” Pardue said. “It was my first start at Happy Valley and I didn’t do too well, but I worked hard through the week. The coaches had me prepared, and I just came out here and did my thing and played the game. Me and Jake Greer worked on the snaps. They were bad at HV but we didn’t have one bad snap this game. The coaches helped me out a lot. Hampton is our big rival. This means as much to me as our conference game at Happy Valley did. If we can just play with the same intensity in the North game next week that I see out of my boys right now we’ll run all over them.”
The win was a hopeful sign for Coach Atwood as well, especially considering that next week is homecoming. “We had to have it,” said Atwood. “I knew we had a pretty good team but we just hadn’t been getting any breaks, made some bad mistakes, had some bad injuries, but they played well tonight. I’m proud of them. They deserved to win and I’m glad they got it. We’ve got North coming into town, they’re a big physical team and have a little more speed than Hampton. So we had to get a win here. Our boys are on top of it right now, I just hope it carries over to next Friday because that is an important game.”
Johnson County 21