JCMS came to Cloudland on a mission to avenge its only conference loss of the year and it left as Little Watauga Conference Champions.
A 65-yard interception return by Warren Kerley sealed the Longhorns destiny as JCHS won 20-18 last Tuesday and as a result won the conference championship.
Tuesday night at press time, JCMS was playing in the regional semifinals against Blountville at McEwen Stadium. Due to our deadline, we were unable to get the game in the paper. A short story will appear Wednesday at www.thetomahawk.com. Look for a full report next week in the newspaper.
The Longhorns celebrated last week a hard-fought championship in what was one of the best Little Watauga Championship games in recent memory.
JCMS had to hold on as JCMS held Cloudland on a two-point conversion to keep a two-point lead at 20-18 then had to keep a Cloudland rally at bay.
The Landers went for the win when Kerley made the interception that sent the Longhorns players and fans in a frenzy.
Ive got to give it to our defense and our offensive line, they all played hard and to Jordan Grubb and all the receivers, they all played hard, Kerley said.
JCMS head coach Matt Bray had all the confidence in his teams defense late in the game.
I was more confident in this game than I had been in awhile, Bray said. They bounced back and then we bounced back. It was a nail-biter.
They didnt score on any of their two-point conversions and we got ours on a quarterback sneak. Once or twice our two-point conversions got busted up and I think a lot of it was scoring and then not settling down. I think that played a little bit into it.
When Kerley picked off the pass, Bray thought it was too good to be true.
I was waiting on a flag and the flag never came, he said. It sealed the game. We took a knee. We could have tried to score again, but whats the point. We had already beaten them. They said they were undefeated the last two years. First time they beat us they had two defensive touchdowns, they only had one offensive touchdown. I think if we had been a little better prepared we would have beaten them. This group of boys had never beaten this group of kids until this year. It was big for them and big for our program.
Kerley thought the loss to Wilkes County a week ago was good preparation for the Longhorns.
They didnt do much, but what they did do they did well, Bray said. We were hurting as well because some of the boys had gotten into some discipline trouble and I made them sit out. Thats my rules and win or lose, Im here to make them better men. Ill take a loss if it teaches them a lesson and I think it did.
Things didnt start out great for JCMS as the Longhorns had punt blocked that was returned for a touchdown by Colby Birchfield to give Cloudland an early 6-0.
The Longhorns bounced back when Warren Kerley threw strike to Ryan Sauer that tied the game at 6-6.
It was Sauers first touchdown of the season and it couldnt have been a bigger one as it propelled the Horns to a conference championship.
Were trying to build a great program and get Johnson County back to where it should be, Bray said.
Cloudland was trying to force JCMS to throw it and that allowed for the touchdown pass.
The plan went right into what Johnson County wanted to do anyway and thats throw the football.
They didnt know about our success with the passing and Ryan Sauer caught his first touchdown and Gregory Roark had two awesome catches, one of which was a touchdown. I think they came in there and expected us to ground and pound and we switched gears. Thats why I think we won the game.
The biggest play of the first half came when Jordan Grubb returned an interception 77 yards for a score and gave JCMS a 12-6 lead with less than a minute to go in the quarter.
The Cloudland fans were stunned and the Longhorn fans were absolutely enjoying it.
The one with Jordan was started by Zack Walton putting pressure on the quarterback and the one by Warren was started by a sack right after the play by Chris Courtner, so basically our defensive ends get a nod for their effort because without them those interceptions might not have happened.
The Longhorns would not have won this championship without the offensive and defensive lines playing like they did.
Our offensive line is big and strong and they are well-motivated, Bray said. I try to reward them because as a former offensive lineman I know personally you dont get your name in the paper often and no one mentions you This past week I took the offensive linemen out and bought them cheeseburgers and had a little linemen time. Im really proud of them and proud of all their efforts. The unsung heroes of most games are the offensive and defensive lines. A lot of them go both ways
With the score tied at 12-12, Kerley found Roark for the touchdown.
Roark had a great night, netting 70 yards receiving. Sauer had the other 30 on his touchdown.
For Kerley, the game was one of the greatest moments of his young life.
Im not a struggling quarterback anymore, he said. Ive just got to give it to my team. We did it and well never forget it.
Bray will never forget this moment, either.
Taking two kids to state in track was great, but coaching close to 50 boys and helping them get to a place that they themselves thought could never get to, it something I will never forget, he said.
Just getting to the championship game forced Coach Bray to come through on a bet and that was to get a mohawk.
The boys told me at the beginning of the year if we made it to the championship would I shave my head into a mohawk. I believed in them but you never expect to have to live up to your end of the bargain. It was for the boys and anything that motivates them Im willing to do.
Rushing: Jordan Grubb 7 carries 33 yds, Aaron Osborne 6 for 17 yards, Doug Stanton 5 for 24 yds Warren Kerley 5 for 24 yards and a 2 point conversion.
Passing: Warren Kerley 3 for 6 – 100 yards 2 to Greg Roark for 1 TD and total of 70 yards & 1 to Ryan Sauer for 30 yards abd a TD.
Tackles: Greg Roark 8, Jeffery Brooks 8, Scotty Tester 7, Jordan Grubb 6, Richard Barnette 5, Warren Kerley 3. Ryan Sauer 2, Aaron Osborne 2, Jake Greer Chris Courtner Devin Peters & Mitchell King all had one tackle.
Interception Jordan Grubb one returned for 77 yards and a TD. Warren Kerley returned for 65 yards.