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Horns hope to corral Sullivan East Patriots

By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor

Very seldom does a team open up the regular season with the same opponent they ended it with from the previous one. It’s even more unlikely they would play them at home two straight years.
But that’s the case when Johnson County and Sullivan East open up in a non-conference tilt on Thursday at Harold Arnold Field. The Longhorns will seek to avenge last year’s 19-11 defeat.
East comes in fresh off the heels of a 7-4 campaign in 2014. Head coach Mike Locke has been at the helm for five seasons. Before their banner season they had lost 21 of their last 22 games. They were 0-10 in 2012.
But the ‘Pats appear to have turned the corner.
They return several good players including running back Matt Nixon and quarterback Aaron Frye.
Nixon (5’8, 170, Jr.) scored 22 touchdowns last year and averaged better than 10 yards per carry. He ended the season with 978 yards rushing.
Johnson County head coach Don Kerley knows his defense will have their hands full. Nixon has been clocked at 4’5 in a recent 40-yard dash.
He’ll be joined in the backfield by Jamerson Roberts who rushed for over 500 yards as a junior.
Frye threw for 632 yards last year including eight touchdowns. His primary receivers are Jeremiah Addison (6’3) and Gunner Griffith, another speedster.
John Jones, Hunter Parker and Cole Green are all returning starters in the offensive line. They also return their three starting linebackers.
“We’re excited about playing Sullivan East because they have a good program,” said Kerley. “I think it’s a good rivalry because our schools are fairly close. The Nixon kid is a really good running back and so is Roberts. They have an experienced quarterback. They’ll be very good because they return nearly all their players.”
Unlike the Longhorns who’ll have some big shoes to fill.
Warren Kerley threw for 2014 yards and completed 59 percent of his passes. Robert Bower accounted for 118 tackles plus they lost nearly everyone off the offensive line.
“We’ve scrimmaged three good teams so far hoping it would make us better,” said JCHS’ head coach Don Kerley. “Daniel Boone, Happy Valley and Cherokee all have good programs.  We’ve not had any injuries so we’re tickled with that. I think our kids are excited about playing. They all know that East is pretty good.”
The Longhorns will open up with sophomore Nathan Arnold at quarterback. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Dakota Wright, Samuel Icenhour, Bud Icenhour and Gage Hampton. All of them will share time at running back.
“We’re going to play a lot of people to stay fresh,” added Kerley. “Some of those guys have to play defense. We’ve got four guys who can play back there so we’ll use them all. Some of them will also be lined up at wide receiver.”
Cody Bailie returns after leading the conference with 59 catches for 616 yards last year. Kerley especially wants him to stay healthy.
“He got a little banged up playing defense last year but still led the league in receiving,” said Kerley. “We’re only going to play him on offense to start with. We’ll be as good as our sophomore quarterback is. Plus our offensive line will need to play well and protect him.”
Jake Bower is a three-year starter that will anchor the line. Kerley knows how important his starting center is.

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