Without a scheduled varsity game this week, the spotlight turned to focus on the Johnson County Longhorn JV squad as they gained a huge win on the road against the Sullivan East Patriots. The game was a good opportunity for fans to see the raw talent and drive of some of Johnson Countys younger players, especially considering the growing role they will likely play not only next season but this year as well.
Much like their older counterparts, the JV team relied on a strong offensive line to open up holes for their very talented running backs. Samuel Icenhour was possibly one of the most successful on the carry, and he too gave all the credit to the guys making the big hits. The line blew out everybody, it was obvious, Icenhour said. After that it was just about making the right cuts and getting out in the open. They blew the holes open every play and I just had to find the crease and go through it, get it open and make what moves I could.
Whether doing their best to plow through the Patriots on the offense or holding them back on the defense, players like Chris Petralia, Stevie Williams, and Hunter Greene were able to prove exactly how capable they were in their positions. For Petralia, who had a huge tackle late in the third quarter that actually ended up costing East yards, the game was all about letting the lessons learned in the off season become reality on the field. Tonight I just played hard and took whatever position they could get me, Petralia said. As soon as you get out there its all about instinct, what you learn in practice. You do what youre told, and what you do out in practice all comes out on the field.
Despite these big accomplishments the first quarter was actually more of a grudge match that didnt see any real advancement from either side. East was the first to receive, but were forced to punt after being unable to make headway only a couple of minutes into the game. Following two early penalties, Johnson County was in the same position, making a long pass to Alex Tressler that ended up off target and then facing a turnover on a fourth down. By the end of the quarter the Longhorns were starting to get their act together, moving the ball steadily down field, but not before the clock ran down to finish the first 0-0.
Having already paved much of the way to their first touchdown, it wasnt long until Samuel Icenhour was able to reach the end zone, putting Johnson County ahead at six. Hoping to build their experience in such high-pressure situations, the Longhorn coaching staff opted for the first of several two-point conversion attempts, easily making the extra effort thanks to Ryan Sauer. Now ahead 8-0, Johnson County returned the punt to East, but thanks to a timely interception the Patriots didnt have much time to plan their strategy.
Back in control of the ball, Johnson County once again relied on their ground game, with Samuel Icenhour making several big first downs, along with teammates Alex Tressler and Cody Bailie. With three minutes left before the half, Tressler was soon in position to deliver the second touchdown of the night, and Johnson County once again attempted the conversion. This time the catch was made by Bailie, leaving the Longhorns safely in the lead at 16-0.
Although the odds had turned rapidly against them, East still had a few tricks up their sleeve, namely in the form of number 11, Peyton Kegley. After finally regaining the ball, Kegley somehow managed to squeeze his way through Johnson Countys line to gain an impressive breakaway that saw him clear more than 50 yards for the Patriots first and only touchdown. Now at 16-6, East tried to even things up with their own two-point conversion but ultimately failed to move the ball across the line.
There were just over two minutes on the clock when Cody Bailie received the punt and ran it back to the 50. From there the Longhorn offense made short work of the Patriots, eventually putting Icenhour in a position to carry the ball into the end zone with just 48 seconds left in the half. With increasingly less risk, Johnson County continued to try and gain the extra points and once again Ryan Sauer was able to deliver.
For Coach Scott Plyler, who has worked with many of the boys from their freshman year on, the success of this game and the wide diversity of players who helped at key points is a hopeful sign for the future. Every point counts, Plyler said. A lot of games are won and lost on a conversion attempt. We only missed one two-point conversion and, again, thats all the guys contributing. Sam Icenhour carried the ball well. We completed some nice passes to Cody Bailie and Ryan Sauer. Nevada Woodard came in and scored, David Rozier came in and scored, Rico Ortega came in and scored. We had multiple guys who were able to carry the football and put it in the end zone.
At 24-6, things went from bad to worse for Sullivan East in the second half. Within the first few minutes of the third quarter Woodard was able to get his touchdown, and although the following conversion was the only to fail, the defense made any Patriot advancement almost impossible. The last few minutes in the quarter saw a back and forth exchange between the two teams, but a touchdown early in the fourth from David Rozier had pushed Johnson County into the upper 30s. East struggled on to the very last second, but even then the Longhorns were still gaining ground, finishing up with a touchdown by Rico Ortega and the extra two points from Justin Perdue.
When it was all said and done, Johnson County left Bluff City with a huge 46-6 victory that left fans and coaches equally satisfied with the efforts of the JV program in general.
We have a couple of things we need to clean up, but all in all I thought it was a pretty solid game in offense, defense, and special teams, said Coach Plyler. The benefit of the JV program is that it gets our guys ready for Friday night. Some of them are one snap away from having to step in and fill a position and thats the benefit we shoot for in our JV. This is kind of the last step to a Friday Night Lights for these guys.