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Johnson County Longhorns topple Sullivan North 28-6

By Tim Chambers
Sports Editor
[email protected]

KINGSPORT—Johnson County wasn’t about to make like Roy Rogers and ride off into the sunset with their playoff hopes still on the line. Instead they gave a “John Wayne, True Grit-type” performance by knocking off Sullivan North 28-6 on Friday night at Bennie Compton Field.
It was Johnson County’s first conference win over the Golden Raiders since a 41-20 victory in 2007.
Head coach Don Kerley was all smiles after watching his defense hold North to only nine yards of total offense in the first half. They never got within smelling distance of the red zone which left them trailing 21-0 at intermission.
“Our defense played outstanding, the defensive line, linebackers and secondary,” said Kerley. “We changed up things this week. North likes to run that two-tight end, double wing and they’ve been moving the football on teams. We kept a lot of people in the box to try and stop them. I thought our kids responded well.”
The Horns started out hot before turning it over on their first drive.
Dakota Grubb carried five times for 35 yards helping Johnson County move past midfield. The drive stalled when Christian Arnold intercepted Warren Kerley’s pass at the 20 but the defense would steal back the momentum.
The Golden Raiders went three-and-out and then shanked a punt that traveled four yards. It ended up being a costly miscue.
Kerley bounced back nicely by hitting Cody Bailie on a 23-yard pass play that left them three yards short of the end zone. His quarterback sneak from there gave Johnson County a 6-0 lead at the 3:09 mark.
North’s next possession didn’t go well either.
Samuel Icenhour’s interception gave Johnson County the ball back near midfield where they began a 53-yard scoring march.
Kerley kept the hot hand by hitting Dakota Wright with a 40-yard pass. He followed that up with a 12-yard touchdown strike to Bailie with 8:38 remaining in the half. Austin Kurtz added the extra point extending the lead at 14-0.
The Horns cashed in a third TD off another Golden Raiders’ turnover before intermission.
Cole Peters’ bone jarring tackle caused a fumble that was pounced on by senior defensive lineman Tristan Hill at the 20.
A 12-yard pass from Kerley to Cole Peters set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Wright. Kurtz provided the PAT giving Johnson County a 21-0 cushion at the break.
“We studied them all week and had a good game plan,” said Fenner. “We tackled and ‘read our keys well. We made plays when we had to.”
Their only blunder came on North’s first possession in the third quarter.
The Golden Raiders used an 82-yard pass from Zack Byrnes to Trey Burke to get inside the five. Austin Smith would bull his way over from two yard out allowing North to avoid the shutout.
“Johnson County is a physical team,” said North’s head coach Robbie Norris. “We knew what they were capable of doing, so nothing really surprised us. I’m sure that nothing we did surprised them either. We’re conference rivals. We know each other pretty well.”
Johnson County retaliated with a homerun ball on their very next play.
Chase Phillips hauled in Kerley’s pass and took it 69-yards to the house. Kurtz closed out the scoring with his third PAT to make it 28-6.
“I was able to get behind the defense and Warren threw a perfect pass,” said Phillips. “He was on target the whole game. This was one we had to have. We’ll need this same kind of effort next week.”
Kerley completed 13-of-19 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Bailie caught 5 balls for 62 yards. Phillips added a pair for 74 yards. Cole Peters hauled in three for 45. One of those was a 15-yard completion from freshman Nathan Arnold.
The head coach said his team wanted to mix it up some.
“We want to run the football as much as possible,” said Kerley. “But our kids like to throw the ball too. It opens things up. We’re getting better offensively but we’re not where we would like to be. It was a big improvement from last week. We were able to make a few big plays.”
Grubb led the ground game with 75 yards on 15 carries.
The trio of Robert Bower, Fenner and Aaron Osborne combined for a whopping 37 tackles.
Bower logged a baker’s dozen. Fenner and Osborne added a dozen each.
“They were trying to overpower us but with our line being so big and physical they couldn’t do much,” said Bower. “The line stacked them up which allowed our backers to get the tackles. We couldn’t have done it without their play. We were faster than they were.”
Seth Billingsley added eight tackles and a sack. Hill logged a half dozen as did Peters. Freshman Will Kerley produced a touchdown saving tackle on a long kickoff return in the first quarter. Freshman, Bud Icenhour made a couple of key stops to.
But it was the play of birthday boy Chris Courtner that stood tallest. He managed to log nine stops despite being doubled teamed the entire way.
“There is nothing better than kicking off your birthday with a win, said Courtner.  We ran a tiger defense — a three-man front with four linebackers. I didn’t see a lot because they were doubling down on me almost every time. Our backers did a great job of making tackles. The line just tried to slow them down.”
Johnson County (2-0, 3-3) will travel to Unicoi County (0-3, 0-6) next Friday in another must-win game.
“We’ve got to have that game,” said Wright who contributed a touchdown and two nice runs in addition to his 40 yard reception. “Our focus this week needs to be on Unicoi County. We’ve all got to come out and play our best.”
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