By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
MOUNTAIN CITY—Johnson County had a way of winning several close games last season that could have gone either way. That role, however, was reversed on Friday against Hampton. The Bulldogs escaped the jaws of defeat and came away with a dramatic 20-19 win over the Class 3A, No. 7, ranked Longhorns to spoil their home opener. A stunned Johnson County crowd watched the Bulldogs go on top 14-0 only to see their Horns score 19 unanswered points to go on top 19-14 with 5:59 remaining in the game. The Bulldogs were back on 58 seconds later.
“We just had too many plays that hurt us,” said JC’s head coach Don Kerley. “Hampton did a great job of running the ball right at us, but we had our chances. They made more plays than we did. We have to regroup as a team and try to cut down on our mistakes and keep playing hard. We will win our share of close games but tonight just didn’t go our way.”
Hampton’s game-winning drive: It took the Dogs just three plays to go 70 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Alex Hardin found a wide-open Isaiah Greenwell all by his lonesome that resulted in a 50-yard catch-and-run play. Hardin would run it in from five yards out to put the Dogs back on top 20-19 with 5:01 remaining.
The Longhorns got a good return from Zack Eller on the ensuing kickoff that gave them good field position at their own 42.It appeared like the Horns might get within field goal range after a 12-yard completion from Troy Arnold to Eller got them past midfield at the 43. The Longhorns were able to reach the 35 but misfired on four straight passes that ended the game allowing Hampton to escape with their first win of the season.
The Longhorns were their own worst enemy: Johnson County never lived up to its No. 7 ranking in the AP’s Class 3A poll that was released this week and Hampton’s play was a total turnaround from what it was in their 28-6 loss to Trinity Academy last week. The Longhorns shot themselves in the foot early and often that started on their first drive. A bad snap over the quarterback’s head went for minus 18 yards in addition to a pair of penalties that occurred after they had moved the ball past midfield.
The Bulldogs got on the board first on an 11-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Alex Hardin to Matt Hughes. Michael Harrison kicked the extra point giving Hampton a 7-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Hampton took advantage of a Johnson County miscue that set up their second score. Harrison recovered Zack Eller’s fumble that set up Lane Potter’s 1-yard plunge on the final play of the first quarter.Hampton led 14-0 heading into the second quarter.
The Horns finally find a little bit of offense: Johnson County’s only score in the first half came on an 11-yard touchdown run by Nathan Lane, but the two-point conversion failed. Hampton still led 14-6.The Longhorns defense rose to the occasion just before halftime by keeping the Dogs out of the end zone after that had reached the 2-yard line. Jared Kimble fought through the line and sacked Hardin on the final play of the half that kept them from going back up by 14.
Halftime adjustments: The Longhorns came out red-hot to start the third quarter. Troy Arnold hit Zack Eller with a 26-yard touchdown pass to pull them within two at 14-12, but missed on an all-important two-point conversion. It became a defensive battle for the next 12 minutes until the Horns found a way to take the lead. Arnold hooked up with the speedy Lane for a 53-yard touchdown pass with 6:31 remaining to go up 19-14. Hardin’s 50-yard completion to Greenwell would begin the nightmare ending for the Longhorns now 1-1.
Game leaders: Some bright spots that stood out for Johnson County included Nathan Lane’s 110 all-purpose yards, 53 rushing and 57 receiving. Lane also racked up 11 tackles. Eller added four catches for 60 yards and one touchdown. Arnold completed 7-of-21 passes for 158 yards and two TDs.
“We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted but I’m proud of our guys for not quitting and playing until the final whistle,” Arnold said. “This game was a tough one to swallow, but we will continue to get better this week and fix the things that need to fixed so that we can be ready for Chucky-Doak on Thursday.”
The night belonged to Johnson County’s middle linebacker Tyler Norris who amassed a remarkable 20 tackles. Kerley liked what he saw from his senior linebacker.
“Tyler was all over the field making plays,” said Kerley. “Our kids played hard, but we just made too many costly mistakes are critical times.”
Lane Potter was the workhorse for Hampton rushing for 118 yards on 30 carries. Hardin completed 5-of-7 passing for 90 yards. Five different receivers caught one pass each for the Dogs. Caleb McKinney led the Bulldog defense with nine tackles and a sack. Caleb Oaks added seven tackles. The Longhorns (1-1) will be at home again on Thursday to take on Chuckey-Doak. Hampton will host Happy Valley at home on Friday.
Hampton 20, Johnson County 19
Hampton 14 0 0 6 —20
Johnson Co. 0 6 0 13 — 19
H—Hughes 10 pass from Hardin (Harrison kick)
H—Potter 1 run (Harrison kick)
JC—Lane 11 run (pass failed)
JC—Eller 20 pass from Arnold (run failed)
JC—Lane 57 pass from Arnold (McFadden kick)
H—Hardin 5 run (run failed)
1st Downs 13 8
Rushing Yrds 48-170 20-36
Passes A/C/I 5-7-0 7-21-0
Passing Yrds 90 158
Total Offense 260 194
Fumbles 1-1 1-1
Punts 3-33 4-42
Penalties 3-20 6-45
Rushing: JC— Lane 7-53, Webster 3-6, Greer 4-15, Arnold 6 (minus 38). Hampton—Potter 30-118, Oaks 6-22, Barden 3-10, Hardin 9-20.
Passing: JC—Arnold 7-21-0 158, Hampton—Hardin 5-7-0 90
Receiving: JC—Eller 4-60, Lane 1-53, C. Neely 1-38, A. Neely 1-21. Hampton—Greenwell 1-50, Hughes 1-10, Birch 1-18, Oaks 1-9, Potter 1-4.
Sacks: JC—Norris 1, Hampton—McKinney 1
Fumble Recoveries: JC—Arnold, Hampton—Harrison
Tackles (5 or more): JC—Norris 20, Lane 11, Kimble 8, Eller 6, McFadden 6, Hampton—McKinney 9,