By Tim Chambers
Johnson County has been among the elite in middle school football for a number of years, and the 2019 squad is hoping it stays that way. The Longhorns return a good number of players off of last year’s 4-4 team that makes them a legitimate contender to win the Little Watauga Conference.
Devin Shaw returns for his third season as head coach, and he’s very optimistic after a stellar first season and an up and down one last year.
“We’ve got the most experienced team that I’ve had in three years,” said Shaw.” Most of the guys started for us as seventh-graders last year because we didn’t have a lot of eighth-graders. We’ve got good size and speed in the line on both sides of the ball, and that will be our strength. I’ve got a lot of confidence in this group. I think when we come to play that they can compete with anybody.”
Daniel Stout and Hank Sauer will anchor the offensive line, and both will be very active on defense. Stout will line up over center at nose tackle while Sauer will man one of the defensive end spots.
“They have a chance of being excellent football players,” said Shaw. “They both work hard and have good skills.”
Shaw is also high on the tight end and defensive end Connor Simcox.
“He’s a great kid with very good size, speed, and athletic ability. He has slimmed down a lot and grew much taller. He’s got great hands and can catch the football. I think he’ll be able to create some mismatches with his size and speed. He’s also probably the leader on our team.”
Ethan Simcox will lead the offense as a quarterback. Shaw thinks that he’ll be a good one.
“Ethan has great leadership qualities. He’s a smart kid that we’re going to trust having the ball in his hands,” He’s been working hard on this throwing and has improved his arm strength and accuracy immensely. We’re expecting good things from him.”
Chase Muncey will get the nod at tailback. Shaw feels like he could be the prize catch after a lot of hard work in the offseason.
“He’s never done it before, but he’s a big strong kid that has tons of speed. He played mostly nose guard last year because he joined the team late. He was such a good athlete that we had to get him out on the field. He’s one of our biggest boys, but he’s definitely the fastest. He’ll also be one of our top defensive players.”
Chad Morefield could see some time in the backfield as a runner. Evan Dollar will get the nod as the starting fullback and linebacker. Nehemiah Wills and Isaiah Fenner will join Sauer and Stout on the line.
“I like all these kids because they had a passion for football,” said Shaw. “They don’t care to put in the extra time because all of them want to be better. That is definitely the case with Willis, Fenner, Dollar, and Morefield.”
Shaw will count on a few seventh graders to play vital roles on the team. Kyle Sluder will start at cornerback, and he’s also the backup quarterback.
“I love Kyle because he can play anywhere,” added Shaw. “He could see time as a receiver, but he’ll be out on the field.”
Nate Doorman will get the start at center. Landle Walker will see a lot of playing time as well.
“We love what we have seen out of Nate and Landle,” added Shaw. “They pick up things well and have earned their playing time.”
Shaw feels like Chuckey-Doak will be the top dog with Hampton, and Happy Valley fielded good teams.
“Doak always has talent, and you know Hampton, and Happy Valley will be good. Cloudland will be a factor if they can get their numbers up and you sure can’t ever count Unaka out.”
The Longhorns will open up at Unaka on August 27. Their first home game will be on September 3 against
Yancy County, North Carolina.