By Tim Chambers
It’s a tough assignment having to play high school football on a school night at 6:30 nearly 90 miles from home. It’s even harder when your opponent is still steaming from a 48-19 whooping that you administered to them at their place last season.
Johnson County will travel to Chuckey-Doak on Thursday in what could be a trap game in the making. But don’t expect the Longhorns to be looking past the Black Knights because they remember where they were at this time last year.
The Horns were outscored 135-29 in their first three games gathering losses to Sullivan East, Hampton and Elizabethton. This year they’ve outscored their opponents 64-8 with wins over Sullivan East and Hampton.
JCHS head coach Don Kerley knows that his team won’t be able to fly under the radar now that they’re ranked No. 6 in 3-A. They prepared hard in recent weeks for the Black Knights and their Wing T offense.
“They’re a team that likes to run the football in their Wing T set,” said Kerley. “They have a tight end that is 6’4 and huge and a quarterback who is more athletic and mobile than what they had last year. I believe they are better on both sides of the football.”
The Black Knights were defeated by Northview Academy 35-0 in their season opener but bounced back to knock off Sullivan Central 21-7 last week.
The Longhorns must find a way to contain senior running back Elijah Long who rushed for 176 yards last week and three touchdowns. Peyton Fletcher added 42 yards on the ground.
The Blacks Knights allowed only 152 yards of total offense to Central who was 3-17 passing. Johnson County might be a tougher task with senior All-State quarterback candidate Nathan Arnold leading the way.
“I believe we can hurt them with our speed because they are young in their backfield, but we have to go in ready to play,” added Kerley. “Nathan Arnold needs to play well and so do our receivers. We can’t turn over the football.”
Arnold threw for 155 yards and a touchdown against Hampton after tossing a pair of TD passes to Shane Greer against Sullivan East. He has completed 23-35 passes on the season for 360 yards and three touchdowns.
Bud Icenhour had a monster game against the Bulldogs hauling in five catches for 75 yards and a key 40-yard kickoff return late in the fourth quarter. Hayden Osborne’s 13 tackles were complimented by Tyler Norris with 12, RJ Snyder 11 and Jordan Edes-King 10.
“We’ve got to stop the run and put points on the board,” said Kerley. “We don’t want them to control the football. I believe we have a lot more team speed across the board than they do, but we’ve got to go out and show it. It’s a big conference game for the both of us. I sure they’ll be fired up just like us.”
The Longhorns are expecting to have back senior corner Josh Herman who missed the game against Hampton.
“I think he’ll be ready and we’re expecting Gage Hampton to be at 100 percent too,” added Kerley. “Last week Gage was banged up but gutted it out. We need both of them healthy and in the lineup.”
Kerley doesn’t think the odd day and start time will affect his squad.
“We would like to have an extra day to prepare but playing Sullivan East and scrimmaging Sullivan North should help us against them. We’re used to playing against the power running game. Our kids played hard against Hampton but we lined up wrong a few times. I don’t think they would have scored had we been lined up right. You can’t do that against a great back like Hunter Davenport. He going to get 150 or 200 yards rushing in almost every game he plays. We did a good job of not giving up the big plays against Hampton. We’ll need to do the same against Chuckey-Doak.”
Kickoff is set for 6:30 pm on Thursday at the Black Hole in Afton.