By Tim Chambers
TAZEWELL – The $10 Burger King Combo appears to be a great value but it can’t stack up to Johnson County’s “McPick 2” combination of Nathan Arnold and Stacy Greer. The duo hooked up for two long touchdown passes, helping the Longhorns to a 21-12 victory over Claiborne County on Friday night in Tazewell.
It was the third consecutive win for the Horns who evened their record at 2-1 in conference play, 3-3 overall. It also made the 300-mile round trip and ride home sweeter for the players and head coach Don Kerley who agreed that the win was pretty but a much needed one.
“I thought they had some pretty good athletes,” said Kerley about Claiborne County. “Everyone appears to be getting better after five weeks. We turned it over a couple of times when I thought we should have scored touchdowns, but we made the most of our opportunities when we had the football. I am just happy to leave here with a win and get back home. Our kids are excited about playing West Greene on Friday. Its homecoming night and we’ve not played there in over a month. We’re elated about being back on our field.”
Claiborne scored first on a 28-yard run by Isaiah Cloud with 8:59 remaining in the first. A 51-yard pass from Ty Stone to Hunter Rosenbalm helped set up the play.
The Bulldogs led 6-0 heading into the second quarter but the Horns would answer with a bigger play.
They took to the air after being unable to move the ball on the ground. Arnold hit Greer in stride with a 76-yard touchdown pass and outran the pack over the final 35 yards. Kimble added the PAT, giving Johnson County a 7-6 advantage at the 6:34 mark.
Johnson County had to value every offensive possession because Claiborne had the football for most of the game. The next time the cousin combination would “super-size” its output.
Arnold fired a strike to Greer on the final play of the half that resulted in a 62-yard touchdown. That allowed them to take a 13-6 advantage at the intermission.
“The game was frustrating because it didn’t go the way we wanted it to go,” said Greer whose two catches totaled 138 yards and two scores. “We wanted to score a lot more points and gain a lot more yards, but they kept the football for most of the game. Coach Kerley called the first touchdown play. The line blocked good and Nathan threw a beautiful ball. Nathan checked to an audible on the second one and threw another great ball. We’re happy to get the win but know we have to play better this week.”
The Longhorns ran only 15 offensive plays in the first half and 30 for the game. Claiborne reeled off 59 plays that reflected in time of possession.
They had the football 32 minutes to Johnson County’s 16, but the Horns made the most of their opportunities.
The Bulldogs got within one at 13-12 on a 63-yard touchdown by Jacob Butler with 10:20 remaining but failed to get the two-point conversion.
That left the door open for Johnson County to put the game away and they did so on their very next drive.
A 15-yard pass from Arnold to Logan Potter set up Arnold’s 16-yard touchdown run with 4:49 remaining, to make it 19-12. They added a dagger two-point conversion on a pass from Arnold to Bud Icenhour.
Claiborne failed to reach the end zone on their final drive, allowing the Horns to escape with a victory.
Johnson County collected 262 yards of total offense and Arnold put his stamp on 206 of those. He was 8-of-9 passes for 166 yards and two scores and rushed for 40 yards on eight carries.
“I thought our defense did a pretty good job because holding a team to 12 points isn’t bad,” said Arnold. “The time of possession limited us some in our play calling and the interception that I threw off my front foot in the first half hurt. I tried to make it up in the air two times and on the ground once. I can’t wait to play at home next week against North Greene. It’s been a while since we’ve played a home game.”
For the rest of the story and more photos, pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.