By Tim Chambers
The year 2017 was definitely one that Longhorn fans will remember for a long time. The year was filled with many historic events, including a school record for most wins in a season by the football team.
It was also a year that broke the hearts of many Longhorns fans due to deaths. I lost two wonderful friends with the passing of Gary Woodard and Steve Marshall. Both men gave their heart and soul to our youth leagues here in Johnson County. It would only be fitting to name something in their honor for the valuable volunteer work they did.
Longhorn fans will certainly remember the passing of Jeremy Dunn, said to be one of the best athletes to ever play at Johnson County. We continue to remember the families of these three men in our prayers.
The top story for 2017 is the historic football season by the Johnson County Longhorns. The Horns finished the regular season at 10-0 and ranked No. 3 in the final Associated Press Class 3A football poll.
Johnson County entered the poll ranked No. 8 in its first week and climbed the ladder five spots over the course of 10 games.
Nathan Arnold set the school’s all time passing yards record. Shane Greer went over 1000 yards receiving and Hayden Osborne put up some dazzling numbers on defense that would be hard to duplicate including 159 tackles.
Second to None
Johnson County’s 6-5 softball win over Elizabethton was historic but how it happened gathers the runner-up slot. The Lady Cyclones came in on a high until a freshman phenomena burst their bubble.
Hannah Brooks tormented them that day at the plate and on the mound. She pitched a complete game victory but her bat was what stood out.
Brooks finished the game going 3-3 with two home runs, a double and a whopping six RBI’s. She drove in four with a grand slam and two more with a two-run shot.
It was one of the best individual performances that I’ve seen in my 20 years of watching high school softball.
The game was also broadcast on WMCT with Tom Reece calling the game.
The death of two legends
It would be hard to find two icon figures like the late Harold Arnold and Ralph Stout. Arnold was a standout basketball and football coach for the Longhorns and a role model to everyone who knew him.
Stout was a longtime official for high school and college athletics and could be seen officiating basketball numerous times on television. He called SEC games and was also commissioner over the OVC officials.
He lived in Mountain City almost his entire life and served his town as mayor. His contributions to Johnson County will never be forgotten.
Johnson County 21, Northview Academy 20
How could one ever forget Johnson County’s first round dramatic football victory? Haden Osborne blocked an extra point in the final seconds allowing the Longhorns to escape with a 1-point victory.
Gage Hampton scored two touchdowns and ran for 175 yards. Nathan Arnold threw for 185 yards including a touchdown pass to Bud Icenhour. Shane Greer had six receptions for 100 yards.
It’s the first time ever that a football team captured 11 wins in a season. You will likely see a painted football on the hillside next season inscribed “2017.”
Pete Pavusek tops the 300 total wins mark
It would be hard to find a high school baseball coach with 300 wins in this area. Johnson County’s baseball coach Pete Pavusek did that plus 10 during the 2017 season.
Pavusek added icing on the cake by beating Elizabethton 9-2 to earn his 309th win. Pavusek has been at the helm for 22 seasons.
He accomplished this despite playing in frigid temperatures and weather conditions that sometimes limit practice time up here that other teams get in the lower elevations. I tip my cap to Pavusek.
Michala Cretsinger and Bud Icenhour surpass 1000 points
The 1000 career point total is a milestone that many players try and reach but only a few select succeed.
The most recent was Bud Icenhour who topped the mark during the Hall of Fame games to start the season.
Michala Cretsinger joined the club by scoring 15 first half points against Sullivan South in March.
Both were awarded basketballs for their accomplishments by athletic director Austin Atwood.Johnson County 55, Elizabethton 54 (girls)
It was only two seasons ago that Johnson County was humiliated 98-26 by the Lady Cyclones inside of Treadway Gymnasium. Two years later the tides turned.
Johnson County’s 55-54 win came under the direction of first year head coach Leon Tolley. And they did it by starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior. Three other sophomores made key contributions off the bench.
It was not their first win ever over Elizabethton but they hadn’t beaten the Lady Cyclones in over two decades.
Three Longhorns were awarded scholarships for their outstanding performances over their careers.
Nick Whitner signed to play baseball at Milligan College. Isaiah Penley logged scholarship papers with Alice Lloyd to play golf. Anthony Woodard cast his lot with Emory & Henry to play football.
Longhorns hire Leon Tolley as girls head basketball coach
Tolley’s hiring was a shot in the arm for the Lady Longhorns’ basketball program. He led Hampton twice to the state tournament, finishing runner-up on his second trip.
He will try and rebuild a program that hasn’t been to the regional tournament in nearly two decades.
Last but not least (middle school softball and football)
It was hard to select the final spot so I’ll give a big shout out to both.
Coach Greg Reece gets a pat on the back for his Lady Longhorns winning the middle school tournament softball championship. Coach Devin Shaw also deserves credit for coaching the middle school football team to a league championship and first round playoff win over Rogersville. The team finished the season 7-1, with their only loss coming in the sectional championship game to Church Hill 24-20.
Longhorn fans will definitely remember 2017 for years to come.