By Jonathan Pleasant
In what turned out to be an inclusive team effort, the Longhorns had one of their biggest wins in recent memory after a stunning 49-13 victory on the road against the Sullivan East Patriots. Johnson County took command from the very first play, completely shutting down Easts offense thanks to players like Cole Peters and Kenneth Brown. In fact it was less than two minutes in before the Patriots were forced to punt on a third and 9 without gaining so much as a single first down.
In stark comparison, it took only about the same amount of time for Johnson Countys offense to plow through East and make the first of many trips to the end zone. That drive concluded with a huge pass to receiver Greg Roark who claimed the Longhorns initial touchdown. Unfortunately for East things only got worse as there was an interception on their very first play after regaining the ball, which allowed Johnson County to run the ball back to mid field. Players like sophomore Alex Tressler and Senior running back Patrick South soon got ample opportunities to make big plays of their own, landing first down after first down both on the carry and in the passing game both. This quickly put Johnson County back in a scoring position and this time senior Colton Phillips got the chance to gain some glory as he blasted through the Patriot line and across the goal line.
Yet, even that huge play got overshadowed by Phillipss amazing run in the fourth quarter where he cleared more than half the field in a single effort. Regrettably even with so many yards to his credit Phillips was taken down just shy of a second touchdown. However, considering that the play actually originated from some quick thinking following a bad snap, Phillips was still very pleased with the outcome.
Im overjoyed, Phillips said. The snap was low and I fumbled it but I picked it up and ran with it. My team just blocked well and I almost got it in. I just wish I had run faster, but that was great. I was just so happy Coach Atwood decided to run that play. I believe I have progressed. Im glad that Coach has begun to think of me as more of an asset now. I just hope this isnt the last time I get to run the ball.
For his part, Atwood seemed both equally happy with Phillips effort against East and the fact that he has been able to play an increasing role over the past few weeks. Phillips is our backup punter, Atwood said. We moved Colton to fullback about the middle of the season and hes finally learning how to play that a little bit. We got him in the game and it was a bad snap, that long run was nothing planned. That was just something he did on his own. We had a bad snap and he took off with it and made a good play. That was big.
Now at 13-0, East took over the ball late in the first quarter, but were forced to punt once again by the beginning of the second. The Longhorns continued their huge drive, this time relying on Jordan Grubb and Patrick South, both of whom made short work of the Patriot defense. As a result, South was able to carry in his first touchdown of the night less than a minute of game time after taking possession.
Changing their tactics, East attempted to gain ground on passes midway through the second quarter, but with players like Seth Billingsley breaking up the attempt and very nearly gaining an interception, the Patriots ended up punting once again. In fact, as much as the offense dominated the scoreboard, the Longhorn defense did just as good a job keeping the Patriots away from the goal line. For those on the line such as Senior Kenneth Brown the win was a good way to make up for some of the tough challenges of the past two weeks and crucial boost of confidence for the upcoming playoffs.
Its great to get this win to end the season, Brown said. Last week we had a terrible game against Sullivan South but this week weve worked hard in practice and come back and had a great game. Im excited about getting to go to playoffs. Theres nothing like going out on a win. Im feeling really good and Im excited to be a part of this.
The points continued to roll in through the half with a notable run by Jordan Grubb who twisted and turned his way past the Patriots to claim another touchdown on a play that actually began all the way back near the 50. At 27-0 any hope of a win was quickly fading for East, but to their credit the Patriots continued to fight. By the third quarter Easts passing game finally paid off with a big run of their own that put the home team on the scoreboard for the first time. However, that small victory was quickly forgotten in the wake of yet another huge Johnson County drive that gave South his 3rd touchdown on the evening and an additional two points with a pass to Tristan Hill on the conversion.
Closing out the 3rd 42-7 many of the younger players in the lineup got their chance to take the field. Proving the versatility of Johnson Countys talent, players like Tristan Lowe continued the Longhorns success, going on to make a final touchdown midway through the fourth. Even then East continued to fight and by the last few seconds of the game had worked their way far enough downfield to claim a 2nd and final touchdown to end the game at 49-13.
For head coach Mike Atwood, the victory over the Patriots seemed to highlight just how much potential Johnson County has under the right circumstances. Weve got a pretty good football team, Atwood said. Weve been playing better. We felt like we needed a big game. Weve had a good week of practice. Im just proud of them. They played hard and Im proud of their effort. We had some big plays tonight from some of the guys we expected to make plays all year. Some of the other games we felt like we should have won. Weve just made too many mistakes at crucial times and couldnt make plays when we needed to, but tonight we did. We stepped up and the defense played well and the offense played well. It was just a good overall ball game.
By Jonathan Pleasant