By Matt Hill
The JCHS Football Team fell behind 21-0 against Happy Valley, but on Halloween weekend in Mountain City, nearly gave the Warriors a trick before falling short of a great treat.
The Longhorns rallied back late, but in the end it was Happy Valley coming out with a 21-14 win over the Longhorns at McEwen Stadium.
Happy Valley finished the season with an 8-2 record and earned a trip to the TSSAA Class 3A Playoffs while the Longhorns fell to 2-8 overall.
Though the first half was dismal for JCHS, the final 16 or 17 minutes was a sign that the Longhorns were not going to give up and that they had a lot of heart.
The Longhorns out gained Happy Valley 200-197, but four JCHS turnovers proved to be too much to overcome.
Im pleased with our effort and there have been very few times I havent been pleased with our effort, JCHS head coach Mike Atwood said. We play hard, but weve kind of been snakebitten this year. I cant fault their effort. We did everything we wanted to do except not turn the ball over.We moved the ball against them and I thought everything worked well. We gave them the ball at the nine-yard line and then had a turnover driving. We had three turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game. I thought our boys fought hard and Im proud of that senior class. Its a lot harder to play like that when youre 2-8 then when youre 8-2.
The Longhorns did give a great effort and in the third quarter down 31-0, Austin Humphreys 22-yard run coupled with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Happy Valley put JCHS in scoring position.
A 12-yard halfback pass from Mark Jennings to Eric Arnold pushed the Longhorns to the 20-yard line and then trick play with sophomore Chase Kleine throwing a pass that was nabbed in air by Jason Steele to cut the Warrior lead to 21-7, followed by an extra point from Eric Hernandez.
We always knew we had a team that would fight to the end and you know those 21 points came off of turnovers and if you look back at the games we lost if you take away the points off turnovers we win at least six games. You cant turn the ball over. We stressed that and we might have stressed that too much. We sure did throw it on the ground this year.
You just have years like that. There was one other year (2002) where we had a season where nothing seemed to go right for us. I dont have any reason for it.
In the fourth quarter, the Longhorns recovered a fumble that gave JCHS a chance to get back into it.
Then the yellow flags came out as Happy Valley had five 15-yard penalties called against them, mostly for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The game became ugly as one Happy Valley player and one JCHS player was ejected.
The penalties aided the Longhorns and JCHS was able to score on a one-yard run by Jason Steele. The extra point made the game 21-14.
The emotions were high and it was a very physical game and we knew it was going to be physical, Atwood said. Tempers flare in football and we had a couple of boys lose composure on both sides.
I hate it for Happy Valley because the player thrown out is going to have to miss a playoff game and I hate it for him. When you have two teams who play smash-mouth that happens.
The Warriors recovered the onside kick with two minutes to go and ran out the clock. The fact it went to an onside kick to wrap it up was amazing considering how JCHS struggled early.
Three turnovers in the first eight minutes doomed JCHS and by midway through the third quarter, the Longhorns had turned the ball over five times.
Jaylon Simmons led Happy Valley in rushing in the dangerous triple option with 80 yards rushing, but Nick Campbell finished things off with three keepers for scores.
Mark Jennings led all rushers with 93 yards.
Chris Stollings had two interceptions for JCHS.
When you turn the ball over four times you take the ball out of your hand, Atwood said.
The Longhorns are losing 13 seniors who have been great leaders for this program.
JCHS will miss this great class, on and off the field.
Im disappointed for those boys because theyve worked as hard as any group weve had and theyre good kids and its just one of things you have to deal with and theyll be better people for it.
With some good players coming up, Atwood sees a brighter day in the future.
We feel like better days are ahead, he said. It is going to be a rebuilding year as we lost some very good seniors even though we didnt win many games. We definitely feel like were going to have our work cut out for us the next couple of years, but we feel we will get it turned around.
STATS FOR JCHS
RUSHING: Mark Jennings 25-93, Austin Humphrey 13-45
PASSING: Jason Steele 6-13-1, 58 yards, Chase Kleine 1-1-0, 17 yards
RECEIVING: Kyle Miller 1-8, Mark Jennings 1-1, Austin Humphrey 2-26, Eric Arnold 2-23, Jason Steele 1-17
SACKS: Zach Jacobs 2, Joe Baxter 1, Skylar Reece 1
INTERCEPTIONS: Chris Stollings 2
TACKLES: Kyle Miller 7, Austin Humphrey 4, Tony Hannah 1, Mark Jennings 2, Skylar Reece 8, Eric Arnold 9, Danny Herman 6, Zach Jacobs 5, Ryan Mahala 1. Chris Stollings 2