By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
A banner year for Johnson County Middle School came to a halt on Tuesday in the TMSAA Sectional 3A championship game. Church Hill scored with 10 seconds remaining to claim a hard fought 28-24 win inside of Paul McEwen Stadium.
The Longhorns had taken a 24-22 lead with 1:10 remaining in the game, but a short kickoff and a personal foul penalty aided the Panthers in scoring the winning touchdown.
JCMS head coach Devin Shaw praised his squad for the way they battled.
“We thought a .500 season at best when we first got the team together,” said Shaw. “They went undefeated during the regular season and reached the finals of the playoffs. Credit the amount of growth each of them had for us getting this far. They got better every game. They showed a lot of resilience and that was evident here tonight.”
The Horns dug themselves a great big hole by getting down two scores in the early going.
Dawson Dykes scored on a 53-yard run on the second play of the game giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead. Johnson County failed to move the ball on their first drive allowing Church Hill to regain possession.
They kept the football for nearly six minutes before finding the end zone for a second time.
Three strong runs by Dykes enabled Garrison Barrett to sneak in from the one. Dykes added the 2-point conversion giving the Panthers a 14-0 advantage with 6:22 remaining in the half.
The Longhorns finally got on the board on their next possession.
Nate Rice broke free up the gut for a 43-yard touchdown scamper. Corie Neely’s 2-point conversion left the Horns trailing 14-8 at the 4:02 mark.
The Longhorns grabbed the momentum that led to their next touchdown. Ethan Icenhour recovered a fumbled punt at the 32 giving the Longhorns excellent field position.
Dalton Brown showed his accuracy by firing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Rice that tied the game at 14-14. Neely’s conversion run gave the Horns their first lead of the game at 16-14 with 43 seconds remaining in the half.
Both teams had a couple of good drives in the third quarter but turned the ball over. The Longhorns got an interception from Neely to stop the Panthers while Heath Miller returned the favor nabbing one for Church Hill.
The fourth quarter provided plenty of fireworks and the game wasn’t decided until the final play.
Dykes scored a 6-yard touchdown and added the 2-point conversion run that vaulted Church Hill back in front at 22-16 with 6:15 remaining.
The Longhorns followed that up with their best drive of the game that led to their go-ahead touchdown.
They marched 60 yards in 10 plays with Brown hooking up with Neely on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 1:20 remaining. Neely’s 2-point conversion put the Horns in front 24-22 but the short kickoff gave Church Hill excellent field position where they scored with 10 seconds remaining.
The Longhorns got the football back near midfield but threw an incomplete pass on the game’s final play.
Johnson County displayed a strong ground game led by Neely’s 101 yards rushing on 21 carries. He also caught two passes for 15 yards and logged six tackles.
Rice added 70 yards rushing on six attempts and scored two touchdowns. He bagged eight tackles from his linebacker slot.
Dalton Brown finished the night with 40 yards rushing and 40 more passing.
Ethan Icenhour played outstanding at linebacker collecting a game high 10 tackles and had a fumble recovery. Big John Stout and Zane Jarrels added five tackles apiece as did Preston Greer. Jarrels and Neely had interceptions.
Dykes compiled a game high 145 yards rushing for the Panthers on 20 attempts. Jared Counts and Jaiden Cutright led the defense with seven tackles each. Counts added 90 yards rushing on 10 carries.
The Longhorns finished the year at 6-1. Shaw said the kids should be proud.
“They left it all out on the field tonight,” said Shaw about his Longhorns. “We would have liked to have taken a little more time off the clock when we scored but you don’t expect to lose with only that much time remaining. I can’t wait to watch them play on Friday nights if they will all stay together. There is no quit in any of them. Tonight was special because this place had a high school game atmosphere. They can walk out of here with their heads held high.”
East TN. Sectional
Church Hill 28, Johnson County 24
Church Hill6 8 0 14 — 28
Johnson Co. 0 16 0 8 — 24
CH—Dykes 53 run (run failed) 7:06
CH—Barrett 1 run (Dykes run) 6:22
JC—Rice 43 run (Neely run) 4:02
JC—Rice 25 pass from Brown (Neely run) .43
CH—Dykes 6 run (Dykes run) 6:15
JC—Neely 8 pass from Brown (Brown run) 1:20
CH—Barrett 1 run (run failed) .10