By Tim Chambers
Johnson County had a Jonah-like experience on Friday night in their home opener before a capacity crowd at Paul McEwen Stadium. The Longhorns were beaten, battered, then tossed overboard by Hampton’s enormous offensive line in a 54-22 loss to the Bulldogs.
It was one “whale” of a performance by the state’s No. 7 ranked team in Class 2-A. They amassed a hefty 373 yards of total offense with 279 coming by way of their ground game.
Johnson County’s head coach Don Kerley complimented Hampton’s offensive line and the hard running of Adam McClain. He felt like their play set the tone for the game.
“They are a good football team that made fewer mistakes than we did,” said Kerley. “We recognized their defense and hit a few big plays, but we missed a few too that we probably could have scored on. The offense is getting better, but defensively we’re not jelling yet. We missed some tackles but McClain is an excellent back with speed and power. Their offensive line is huge and they all can move. We knew the first three games would be hard, but you still want to play well against these teams. We’re playing a lot of inexperienced kids on defense, but they’ve all got to step up and learn to play well. It won’t get any easier this week. We’re up against another state ranked football team.”
Things started off well for the Longhorns early. They took a quick 7-0 lead before watching Hampton reel off 24 unanswered points in the half.
The Bulldogs moved into Johnson County territory on their first drive but fumbled the ball at the 33. Nevada Woodard recovered the pigskin that led to Johnson County’s only first half score.
The Horns would march down field on a nine-play, 67-yard drive.
The biggest play came on a sensational 39-yard pass from Nathan Arnold to Shane Greer down to the 10. Arnold would end the march with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Bud Icenhour with Jared Kimble adding the PAT. Arnold was 3-of-3 on the drive for 59 yards.
“We saw some things they were not doing in their secondary, so we tried to attack what they were giving us,” said Arnold. “Their defensive back was playing loose on Shane and he did a great job of getting open and catching the football. We knew these first three games would be difficult, but this team still has a ton of confidence. We can win our last seven games and still host a home playoff game. This team still has a lot to play for.”
The Bulldogs didn’t stay down long and took back the momentum on their next possession. They needed only five plays to reach paydirt after a short pooch kickoff to the 41.
Jason Russell hit a wide open Dakota Crumley with a 25-yard touchdown pass that made it 8-7 after Adam McClain’s two-point conversion at the 3:15 mark.
Hampton would add to their lead on a humongous run by the A-Train to start the second quarter. Adam McClain’s 76-yard sprint TD run came at the 9:50 mark. Russell added the conversion run for a 16-7 advantage.
The Longhorns got a nifty 38-yard return by sophomore speedster Zach Eller on the ensuing kickoff but couldn’t turn it into points.
Hampton had no trouble completing the task, scoring on its third straight possession.
Russell’s 24-yard pass completion to Chris Holtsclaw set up McClain’s 13-yard touchdown jaunt. Russell ran in the conversion for the 24-7 advantage.
The Horns missed a 45-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
The Longhorns fought desperately to stay in the game behind the rifle arm of Arnold and a 38-yard burst up the gut by Gage Hampton. The Arnold to Greer combo produced a 16-yard touchdown pass play with Kimble adding the PAT to pull JCHS within 10 but the Dogs would answer with another quick score.
Russell hit Crumley with a 45-yard scoring strike to make it 32-14 after his successful conversion run. McClain’s 5-yard touchdown run three minutes later made it 40-14 but the Horns didn’t toss in the towel.
Eller dazzled the crowd again with a 45-yard kickoff return to midfield then, Arnold electrified them with a 38-yard pass to Icenhour who was knocked out of bounds at the one.
Hampton bulled its way in from there, cutting the deficit at 40-22 after his two-point conversion run.
The Bulldogs would nail the door shut from there.
Hunter Davenport reeled off an 18-yard touchdown run to make it 48-22. Their final TD came in the final two minutes with all the reserves on the field.
Skyler Cole picked off Troy Arnold’s pass and returned it 55 yards for Hampton’s final score with 2:06 remaining.
“I thought our offensive line play pretty dang good and our fullbacks did a great job of blocking and getting through the holes,” said Hampton’s head coach Michael Lunsford. “Our backs ran hard and we didn’t make a lot of mistakes for the most part. We got a little lost in the secondary by coming up too far at times, but Coach Kerley gave us some funky formations that we had a hard time adjusting to. I thought their quarterback (Arnold) and receiver (Greer) played well. Johnson County will end up winning a bunch of football games.”
For the rest of the story pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.