By Tim Chambers
KNOXVILLE CAKs magical-type offense would have made Mandrake the Magician proud on Friday night in West Knoxville. It also made Johnson County disappear from the playoffs.
The Warriors were impressive in their 37-14 win and all their points came during the first half.
CAK opened the game on a 10-play, 58-yard drive which resulted in their first score. Cole Welch bulled his way over from the one to put them up 7-0. It was one of four touchdowns he would score in the game.
But it was not the running game that hurt Johnson County. The pinpoint passing by the highly talented Cole Smith would prove to be the difference.
He ended the first half completing 26 of 33 passes for 413 yards and two touchdowns. His air attack led to a pair of short touchdown runs and a 29-yard field goal. The Warriors never punted in the first half.
Hes a great quarterback with some very good receivers, said JCHS head coach Don Kerley. They have a good program and theyre ranked No. 3 in the state. Our kids played hard but they had too many athletes on the field. Im proud of our seniors for helping us get into the playoffs. It was an experience coming down here. They have five or six kids who will go somewhere at the D-1 level. Its where we have to be in order to compete with them.
It was Smiths eight-yard touchdown pass to Welch that allowed them to take a 14-0 lead after one.
Johnson County had moved the football well after CAKs first scoring drive but came away empty.
Nathan Arnold completed passes to Cody Bailie and Dakota Wright that totaled 41 yards. A roughing-the-quarterback infraction would move them inside the red zone but the Horns couldnt run the ball against CAKs front line.
Jackson Pegram went high in the air to pick off Arnolds pass at the 1-yard line, stopping Johnson Countys best scoring opportunity. They would find the end zone 10 plays later after marching 99 yards.
Welch bulled his way over from four-yards out for a 21-0 CAK lead. Isaac Gallegos 29-yard field goal made it 24-0 with 8:08 remaining in the half.
Its like playing a college team, said Samuel Icenhour. The timing and speed was there on every play. Its a big difference from what weve seen all year. Im just glad we were able to come back and make a good showing in the second half. We played hard to the end.
The kicking of Gallegos also hurt Wrights chances of another big kickoff return for Johnson County like in the previous weeks. Nearly all of his kickoffs were well out of the end zone. Wrights only return was fielded at the one.
CAK closed out the half with a pair of touchdowns.
Tennessee tight end signee Austin Pope hauled in a 24-yard TD pass from Smith. Welch added a two-yard run with 1:33 remaining before halftime.
But the Longhorns didnt quit despite being down by the large margin.
By Tim Chambers