By Tim Chambers
BLUFF CITY—Johnson County has been a dominant force in middle school football for nearly a decade. This year they fielded one of its youngest teams ever and barely made the playoffs.
The Longhorns were defeated soundly by Bluff City on Monday 42-0 at Sullivan East High School in the first round of the middle school football playoffs. The Grizzlies scored early and often in the lopsided affair.
Johnson County had seven seventh graders starting on offense and defense. Head coach Devin Shaw felt like they got better every game.
“Many of our kids haven’t played football in two years because they didn’t have a youth league team for their age,” said Shaw. “They played hard tonight against a very good and talented team. I thought we moved the ball some and our kids played hard. They’ll be much better next year. Getting to the playoffs really helped because every game we got to play was a plus.”
Shaw was correct on his assessment.
The Junior High Longhorns played only five regular season games after three more were canceled by out of state teams. `They managed to knock off Happy Valley and took Hampton who won the league down to the wire but was no match for the talented Grizzlies.
Bluff City’s Dominic Cross picked off a Johnson County pass on the first play of the game and ran it back 55 yards for a touchdown. Gavin Patrick ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
The Horns threatened to tie the game on their next possession after putting together a 51-yard drive. Isaiah Willis reeled off runs of 27 and 15 yards while Grinnan Walker provided a couple of carries that netted 14.
The Horns had the ball on the 14-yard line but fumbled giving possession back to Bluff City. It was all downhill from there.
Gavin Patrick would find the end zone on a long 52-yard run giving them a 16-0 advantage.
The Grizzlies (8-1) would add a 71 touchdown run by Jacob White and seven-yard pass from Patrick to Cross to go up 30-0 at the half. They would add a pair of scores over the final two quarters.
There were a few bright spots for Johnson County Middle.
Chad Morefield caught two passes from Walker that totaled 45 yards. Isaiah Wills ended the night with 73 yards rushing.
Connor Simcox and Chase Muncy had four tackles each for the Longhorns. Willis, Hank Sauer, Zennia Bouchelle and Tyler Bouchelle were in on three apiece.
“It’s a big step to go from not playing to competing against quality teams,” added Shaw. “We didn’t win a lot of games, but the kids learned a lot. They played hard and never gave up. I’m proud of them for that.”