By Tim Chambers
The “big rig” of Johnson County is hoping to journey into uncharted waters for the first time in 28 years in 2016. They’ll try and do so with 10 seniors and 18 juniors on the roster who are in this thing for the long haul.
The Longhorns have their sights set on hosting a home playoff game for the first time since 1988 but to do so they have to go trucking through some tough competition without their big play threat who is done for the season. Senior speedster Dakota Wright suffered a torn ACL in a passing league game at Hampton. Last year he returned four kickoffs back for touchdowns and had another three plus a punt return score nullified because of penalties, but head coach Don Kerley is still optimistic despite the loss.
“The kids on this team will play for one another,” said Kerley. “I believe they can reach all the goals that they want because of their work ethic. I’m expecting us to be better than we were last year because we played a lot of sophomores. But we lost some good players too. We’ve got to find a way to replace some of those.”
The loss of leading rusher Samuel Icenhour, leading receiver Cody Bailie and leading tackler Peyton Fenner are the biggest shoes to fill in addition to Wright.
“Those four kids were excellent football players and leaders,” added Kerley. “I feel like we’ve got some kids ready to step up and lead our football team. “We don’t have maybe the superstars, but we do have some solid football players out here.”
Nathan Arnold (6’0, 160, Jr.) quarterback will be the key cog in the catbird seat of the big rig. Last season he threw for over 1500 yards and completed nearly 58 percent of his passes.
He is joined in the backfield by Gage Hampton (6’0, 185, Jr.) who will get a fair share of the carries.
Bud Icenhour (5’10, 155, Jr.) will look to fill the shoes created by Wright. Shane Greer (6’1, 185, Jr.) will line up at tight end.
The receiving corps led by Jordan Edes-King (6’2, 180, Jr.) and Logan Potter (5’11, 165, Jr.) will be complimented by Hampton and Edes-King after the loss of Wright.
“Nathan had a good spring and played every game last year,” said Kerley. “He’s definitely our team leader so we’ve got to protect him. Gage had a big spring and will be our workhorse in the backfield. Bud can run the ball inside and we can also line him up at wide receiver. Shane and Jordan can each catch the football and are capable of making big plays. Logan had a big spring and looked good in the passing league. We certainly need all of those to step up and play well for us to have a good season.”
The Longhorns must get some outstanding play from its offensive line if they expect to finish in the upper pack.
Bob Stout (6’2, 240, Sr.) and Cody Neeley (6’0, 225, Sr.) will anchor the offensive line. Brycen Norris along with Tristan Dishman (6’3, 280, Jr.) and Nick McFadden (6’2, 275, Jr.) will be counted on as well.
For the rest of the story pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.