By Tim Chambers
Johnson County turned J.C. Campbell Stadium into its version of “Churchill Downs” on Thursday night in the title game of the Little Watauga Conference Championship. The Longhorns unveiled a ground attack that compiled nearly 400 yards which led to its 40-8 victory over the Bulldogs.
The Horns held a modest 8-0 lead at the half but broke loose to score 32 points over the final two quarters. Head coach Devin Shaw wasn’t surprised about his team’s play.
“It’s amazing what these kids have overcome in their careers,” said Shaw. “They didn’t win a game their last year of playing youth league football and now they are conference champs. They have given their all in practice and in games. This is a special group of kids to work with.”
The trio of Corie Neely, Nate Rice and Dalton Brown was too much for the Dogs to corral because of some special performances. Neely ran for 210 yards on 16 carries, two touchdowns and three 2-point conversions. Rice had 90 yards on five carries and two scores. Brown churned up 75 yards and two scores.
“We have confidence in all three of them,” added Shaw. “We know teams will key on Corie but Dalton and Nate can run the ball effectively too. I felt like our offensive line played outstanding with John Stout out with an injury. There were a lot of holes for our backs to run through.”
Brown got Johnson County on the board with a 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Neely’s two-point conversion gave them an 8-0 lead with 6:16 remaining in the opening quarter.
Neely’s nifty 55-yard touchdown run electrified the crowd in the second quarter. Brown’s two-point conversion made it 16-0 midway through the period.
The Longhorns didn’t spend a lot of time mounting long scoring drives. The bulk of their offense came due to long runs.
Brown scampered 53 yards for his second TD to make it 24-0, followed by Neely’s two-point conversion. But it only got worse in the third quarter.
Hampton tried to steal the momentum after Morgan Lyons scored on a 66-yard touchdown but the Horns would answer after his 2-point conversion.
Neely broke free on a 40-yard touchdown run with 7:12 remaining in the game, but the Horns saved their best for last.
Rice broke through the line for a 79-yard touchdown burst with 3:48 remaining in the game. His 2-point conversion closed out the Longhorns’ scoring.
Morgan Lyons led the Bulldogs with 101 yards rushing including his 66-yard TD. Conner Jones added 40 yards rushing and led the defense with seven tackles.
The Longhorns’ defense was just as impressive as their offense.
Sammy Walters, Ethan Icenhour, Rice and Neely led the way with a half dozen tackles apiece. Brown and Preston Greer finished with five each. Zane Jarrels added a fumble recovery and three tackles. Tanner Marshall played well on special teams and in his role as their back-up quarterback.
Johnson Co. 8 16 0 16 — 40
Hampton 0 0 8 0 — 8
JC—Brown 4 run (Neely run)
JC—Neely 55 run (Brown run)
JC—Brown 53 run (Neely run)
H—Lyons 66 run (Lyons run)
JC—Neely 40 run (Neely run)
JC—Rice 79 run (Rice run)