Johnson County’s Jace Stout goes for an 11-yard run versus Unicoi. He played well in their 16-14 victory. Photo by Tim Chambers
By Tim Chambers
Johnson County was not expected to pull out a win over Unicoi Middle School on Thursday after missing several days of practice due to COVID, but the kids dug deep and shocked everyone. Kyle Sluder rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in their 16-14 win over the Blue Devils.The Shady Valley speedster scored on their opening drive by taking a quarterback keeper 35 yards for a touchdown to put the Horns on top 8-0 after his 2-point conversion run.
“It feels very good to come over here and get the win, but I don’t think we played our best at all,” said Sluder. “We’ve got some stuff we need to work on, but lack of practices has kept us from doing so. We sure are happy to be undefeated. Now we need to find a way to beat a good Hampton team.”
Head coach Devin Shaw was elated about his team’s play.
“At the end of the day, we were just happy to be playing,” said Shaw. “We could have made excuses that we haven’t practiced in two weeks, and we’re out of shape, but the kids didn’t. We were just happy to get the opportunity. This is a tough place to win out, and I could be more proud of these kids. We were slow, and we were sloppy, but the kids had heart. Sluder and Gibson made huge plays for us. It’s great to have two players like them.”
It stayed that way until Unicoi’s Brad Simmons recovered a fumble to set up their only score. With no roster available, number 6 took a pitch and raced 60 yards to pull the Devils within two at 8-6. The game’s play came moments later when Johnson County’s Connor Gibson recovered a fumble and ran it back for a 64-yard game-winning touchdown. The Blue Devils got a score late with 10 seconds remaining on a 54-yard run by Jones to account for the final score.
Not only did Gibson score the game-winner, but he had a touchdown-saving tackle in the first quarter after Jones had reeled off a 49-yard run only to be caught from behind by the “Galloping Gibson.” Gibson and Sluder also sparked the defense with six and five tackles, respectively. Nate Dorman chipped in with four, and Jace Stout had a couple of nice sticks and ran for 32 yards.
The Longhorns are now 2-0 on the season with wins over Unicoi County and Happy Valley. They’ll play their final game of the year on Tuesday against rival Hampton. Kickoff is set to begin at 6 pm.