By Tim Chambers
West Greene got the respect it deserved but Johnson County got the win it needed in a battle for first place in Region 3A. The Longhorns stayed perfect at 5-0 with a come-from-behind 28-21 win on Friday night at Jim Sauceman Field.
The Buffaloes sprinted to an early 14-0 advantage only to watch the Horns reel off 28 unanswered points.
Head coach Don Kerley was quick to compliment the opposition. He also praised his squad for staying the course for four quarters.
“West Greene is a very good team with a great player,” said Kerley. “Coach Joe Case does a great job with them and they were well prepared. We knew coming in that Julian Lane was good and he caused us some headaches. I felt like our depth was the difference. They looked tired in the fourth quarter and we didn’t. We played a lot of kids and it wore them down. We never quit after they got 14 points ahead. That’s the sign of a good football team. I’m very proud of our kids.”
Kerley hit the nail on the head with his overall assessment. Lane was a headache from the get-go but Gage Hampton and Nathan Arnold proved to be the same for West Greene in the second half.
Lane finished the night with 200 all-purpose yards on offense. He rushed 14 times for 95 yards and caught seven passes for 105 more and a touchdown. His play allowed them to dominate play in the first half.
The Buffaloes compiled 332 yards of total offense with a big portion of those coming in the first half. However it was the Longhorns who should have got on the board first.
Shane Greer’s 45-yard punt return gave them excellent field position at the Buffaloes’ 31.
They had the ball first and goal at the three but a high snap was fumbled and West Greene recovered at the 11.
The Buffaloes marched 89 yards in six plays with a 48-yard pass play from sophomore quarterback Alick Daugherty to Kyler Clowers being the key play. Lane scored from seven yards out with Manuel Katau adding the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 6:11 showing in the quarter.
It was another Longhorn turnover that led to West Greene’s next score. Kaleb Sciarra recovered a fumble after Nathan Arnold was sacked, giving the Buffs possession at the 41.
Lane finished off the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds remaining the first quarter. The Buffaloes smelled an upset win at that point but Johnson County would change the aroma from there.
Hampton’s running helped the Horns orchestrate a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ate up nearly six minutes off the clock. Hampton scored on a 2-yard run with Jared Kimble adding the PAT with 6:17 remaining in the half.
The Horns drove deep into Buffalo territory on their final drive of the half but couldn’t come away with any points. They trailed 14-7 at intermission.
“We didn’t want to leave here with a loss after the way they won at our place last year,” said Hampton. “We made the right adjustments at halftime and came back out and took control of the game. This was a big win for us, but now we have to get ready to play Claiborne County in two weeks. We definitely won’t be looking past anyone.”
Kerley’s adjustments at halftime were just what the doctor ordered in the third quarter. The Longhorns played worthy of their number four ranking by dominating the 12-minute stanza.
Quarterback Nathan Arnold led the surge by completing his first four passes on their opening drive that covered 64 yards.
Arnold hit Bud Icenhour with a 27-yarder that got 15 more added to it due to a penalty. Greer hauled in a 22-yard reception before Hampton burst up the gut for another 2-yard score. The Horns still trailed 14-13 after a blocked PAT but it didn’t dampen their spirits.
The Buffaloes were unable to move the football on their next drive and the Horns took over on offense at the 42.
Arnold continued his hot hand completing 4-of-4 passes that led to a 10-play scoring drive. Troy Arnold had a couple of big runs that netted first down before Hampton’s 9-yard touchdown run that gave the Horns their first lead in the game. His two-point conversion run made it 21-14 with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter.
“We knew we could win this football game and we felt like we were better conditioned than they were,” said fullback Troy Arnold. “We play a lot of people and we’ve got some very good players. Nobody panicked when they got the big lead. We picked up each other and went out and got the win. It was sweet revenge after losing to them last year.”
Sweet revenge for the Horns wasn’t determined until the final play of the game. The Horns clung to their 21-14 lead until their punter and the defense provided the game clincher.
Kimble’s 44-yard punt from near his end zone was a huge play for the Longhorns in the fourth quarter that flipped the field. The biggest one came just a few minutes later.
Johnson County was hit with a pass interference call after Brian McCrary’s 28-yard run that got them within 29 yards of a game tying score. The next play would cause them nightmares.
RJ Snyder’s bone crushing tackle on Daugherty forced a fumble that was scooped up by Hayden “Crazy Legs” Osborne. He took it to the house for a 55-yard yard touchdown run, giving the Horns a 28-14 advantage with 2:48 remaining.
“That’s the first touchdown that I’ve ever scored in my life,” said a smiling Osborne after the game. “I wasn’t going to let anyone catch me. I saw nothing but green grass ahead and I didn’t slow down until I crossed the goal line. This was a big win for us just like the one over Chuckey-Doak. Give West Greene credit because they had a good team and Lane is a great player.”
The Buffaloes showed no quit especially with Lane on the field. He made a remarkable 62-yard catch and run for a TD with 1:53 remaining but the Longhorns recovered the onside kick.
West Greene got the ball back with 19 seconds remaining but couldn’t muster another big play against the Longhorns’ defense. Osborne tackled Lane on the final play of the game.
“I’m glad we got a little payback on them,” said senior center Nate Shepherd who sparked the offensive line. “It feels good to be 5-0 and it feels good to come down here and get a win at their place.”
Hampton ended the night with 75 yards on 16 carries in addition to four catches for 62 yards. Greer added five catches for 50 yards and another 105 yards on three punt returns. It was a stern halftime lecture that changed things according to Greer.
“We got an attitude adjustment from the coaches at halftime,” said Greer. “We came back out and our defense played great and our offensive line took control of the game. Nathan made some great calls at the line and our backs made some big plays. It was great second half effort by everyone.”
Icenhour caught three passes for 40 yards and had a 43-yard punt return. Troy Arnold provided a blue collar effort getting 32 tough yards on 10 attempts. Sophomore Will Henson had an 18-yard reception.
Arnold dazzled the crowd with a superior second half after completing only 4-of-12 passes for 32 yards in the third quarter. He ended the game completing 14-of-23 for 167 yards.
Osborne celebrated his 18th birthday with a whopping 14 tackles, a sack and his dramatic 55-yard TD run. Snyder provided eight tackles including two for losses and his game-winning hit.
“I beat my man off the ball and saw him drop back to throw,” said Snyder. “I hit him hard but I went for the ball too. It felt great to see him lose it and even better when Hayden picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown.”
Tyler Norris collected six tackles and a sack, one of five for the Longhorns. Jordan Edes-King also had six stops, two for losses and a sack. Nathan Lane collected four and broke up two passes. Cameron Clawson also celebrated his birthday with five tackles and a sack. Will Kerley was in on four stops and had a pass deflection.
Daugherty completed 12-of-21 passes for 196 yards to compliment Lane’s performance for West Greene.
The Longhorns will enjoy an open date next week before taking on Claiborne County at home September 29.