By Tim Chambers
A blink of an eye stretch proved to be more costly than a weekend get-away in Gatlinburg for Johnson County in Fridays game versus Hampton. The Bulldogs broke open a close game twice in a 37-second span which led to their 30-22 win inside of Paul McEwen Stadium.
The Longhorns had pulled within a whisker at 12-7 with 1:23 remaining before intermission and were set to receive the football to start the second half. But a pair of costly fumbles sent them plunging faster than a ride down Dollywoods Mountain Sidewinder after Hampton converted them into touchdowns.
They made a lot of plays and we didnt, said Johnson Countys head coach Don Kerley. We fumbled two times inside our own 20 and you cant do that against a good team like Hampton. If we had a penalty, it was right when they needed it. That allowed them to keep a couple of drives alive. Those two touchdowns they got before and after halftime just killed us. But I never thought we had the momentum at any point during the game. We made way too many mistakes to win.
The duo of quarterback Coby Jones and tailback Jerry Lunsford proved to be thorns in the side for Johnson County all night long.
Jones used his scrambling ability on a 4th-and-11 to turn a potential sack into a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Ford with 6:19 showing. Lunsfords 83-yard TD run at the 11:33 mark of the second quarter would push their advantage at 12-0.
First of all give God the credit, said Jones about his scrambling ability. Our offensive line gave a great effort. My receivers ran crisp routes and they know when to flow back to the ball when Im scrambling. Its not all me. Those guys deserve a lot of credit too.
Lunsford pretty much echoed those same sentiments about his offensive line. He said they came in here expecting a dogfight because of the rival.
We thought it would be close, added Lunsford. It was important that we come out and control the game. I thought our line allowed us to do that and Lucas (Holtsclaw) blocked really well when we were running those sweeps. Those are the ones that make a difference. We couldnt do it without them.
Hampton had amassed 193 yards total offense in the first half to Johnson Countys 93. Still the Horns were in it.
Robert Bowers fumble recovery helped them get their first score.
Greg Roarks 37-yard touchdown pass from Warren Kerley closed the deficit at 12-7 after he took it away from a Hampton defender. Austin Kurtz added the PAT with 1:23 showing.
We got back in the game and had our chances, said Roark. But weve got to pay more attention to what were doing and start listening more to our coaches. We didnt come out ready to play and all that falls back on us. That shouldnt have happened because we all knew they were a good team.
Hampton turned it over on the ensuing kickoff giving the Horns back the football with less than a minute remaining. But disaster would strike at that point.
Hamptons Clay Fletcher recovered a fumble at the 13-yard line with 1.3 seconds showing after Johnson County elected not to run the clock out.
Jones made them pay by firing a 13-yard scoring strike to Caleb West ending the half with Hampton leading 18-7. And he continued his stellar play during the third quarter.
His 26-yard TD run on Hamptons first play from scrimmage upped the ante at 24-7. The score was set up after Johnson County coughed up the football on their opening series.
There are zero excuses why we should have lost this game tonight, said Jake Greer who ended the night with nine tackles. Its extremely disappointing to lose, especially to Hampton. It ticks us off. We didnt come out ready to play and weve got a whole lot of things to fix. We shouldnt have dug ourselves that big a hole. We couldnt come back from it.
The Longhorns managed to hang around due to Hamptons inability to covert on its extra points. The Bulldogs came up short five times on conversion tries. But they continued to shoot themselves in the foot.
Kerleys 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Bailie with 11:37 remaining pulled them close at 24-14. But another costly miscue would produce the dagger.
The Horns were flagged a second time for roughing the kicker on a 4th-and-long preventing them from getting the football back in good field position. Lunsfords 5-yard run after a Jones interception would extend their advantage at 30-14.
Johnson County refused to throw in the towel.
A nine-yard completion from freshman quarterback Nathan Arnold to Dakota Wright ignited a 53-yard drive. Kerley capped it off by tossing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Roark then tacked on the two-point conversion with a pass to Bailie.
Johnson Countys ensuing onside kick attempt was unsuccessful allowing Hampton to run out the clock.
Kerley completed 21-of-37 passes for 158 yards. Arnold added 1-of-1 for nine more giving Johnson County 167 total yards in the air.
Roark hauled in seven catches for 85 yards and a score. Bailie added six for 67 yard and a touchdown.
Hampton played real well and their kids, especially the quarterback, did a good job, added Kerley. They made more big plays than we did. They deserved to win.
Lunsford ended the night with 242 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 carries. He had 153 of those on two runs thanks to a pair of nice blocks from Holtsclaw.
I love coming up here and winning, said Holtsclaw who resides just down the road in Fish Sprints. I got great position a couple of times on my blocker and was able to kick him out. Its wonderful to get out of here with a big win.
Jones added two interceptions and tossed two touchdown passes. He completed 6-of-15 passes for 101 yards and rushed for 43 more on 12 carries for Hampton now 4-1 on the season.
I thought our line played really well and whipped their linemen, Hampton coach Mike Lunsford said. I thought that would be a hard thing to do because they are big strong men.
Johnson County could muster only 46 yards rushing. Aaron Osborne had 40 of those.
They were stacking the box and had a lot of people up there, said starting lineman Jeff Brooks. Its disappointing because they stopped our runs every time. We were our own worst enemy with all the turnovers and penalties. Weve got to throw, run and block better. Weve got to come out more ready to play.
Robert Bower led Johnson Countys defense with 11 tackles. Tristen Hill added 10 to the cause. Robert Fenner and Jake Greer racked up nine apiece. Chase Phillips got in on six.
The Longhorns (2-3) will travel to Bloomindale on Friday to battle Sullivan North in a very important Three Rivers Conference showdown. Hampton will take on North Greene in a Mountain East Conference game inside of J.C. Campbell Stadium.
Weve got to concentrate and be focused this week at practice, said Phillips. All of us have to step up and make big plays when we need them.
Dakota Wright added, You cant make the mistakes we made tonight and beat good teams. Weve got to get back to the basics and play football. Well get it fixed before Friday.
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