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Longhorns cautious but confident

JCHS Longhorns linemen: The “Beefy Boys” are expecting to be one of the conference’s best in 2019. L-R: Ricky Fenner, Lucas Walters, Connor McNutt, Logan Gilley and Big John Stout. Photos by Tim Chambers.
JCHS Longhorns backfield: Kneeling; Cory Neely. Back row, L-R: Jared Kimble, Curtis Lowe, Stacy Greer, Nate Rice and Jia Webster.

By Tim Chambers
Sports Editor

Johnson County has been a “Mecca” for the Class 3-A football polls over the past two seasons. Nathan Arnold and Hayden Osborne were members of the Class 3-A All-State team in 2017. Throw in Nathan Lane who was All-State in 2018 and Northeast Tennessee’s defensive player of the year Tyler Norris, and it is no wonder the team has compiled an overall record of 20-3 and hosted first-round playoff games. They have also been ranked in the AP’s top 10 3-A poll for 18 weeks straight.
The 2019 squad features some returning players from those teams along with some star-studded young talent. It’s enough reason to be cautious for the coaching staff, but the veteran senior holdovers are confident.
One of the mainstays is senior linebacker and running back Curtis Lowe. He’s ready to tackle the role as a leader of this year’s squad. He didn’t sugarcoat anything when talking about the 2019
Horns.

JCHS cheerleaders ready to support the Longhorns football 2019 season. Photos by Tamas Mondovics

“Our goal is to win the conference and got deeper into the playoffs, possibly third round,” said Lowe. That would be three straight years that we’ve won the conference and hosted a first-round playoff game. We need to study our opponents hard and know what to do on Friday nights to beat them. We’ve got the players we need on this team to be a very good football team. We want to make history again.”
Johnson County limped through the 2016 season with a 4-6 overall mark and missed out on the playoffs. Since then they’ve won a combined 20 games in two seasons, but they have also graduated 38 players off those teams.
This team will be led by junior quarterback Stacy Greer who came in as the third-string quarterback as a freshman. Last year he was a starter at linebacker but is now ready to embrace the role as a signal-caller on offense.
“We have lost a lot of great players over the past two years, but we also built a winning football environment with those guys and the ones still here,” said Greer. “We’ve got a strong offensive line with a lot of experience and some really good senior leaders in Curtis Lowe and Jared Kimble. It’s going to be hard filling the shoes of the guys who have graduated because we had some outstanding players. We’re ready to give it our best and try to duplicate what they did or even better. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get there, but we’re improving every day.”
Senior lineman Lucas Walters is another player who has spent two seasons in the trenches as a lineman. He talked about the bound that this group shares.
“Many of us started off together in youth football. We’ve created a bond that has made us better and closer to one another. There is good chemistry on this team. We have pushed one another in the weight room, and we’ve been staying after practice running to get
in better shape. The players on this team want to get better.”
Senior standout Jared Kimble is expected to be a key contributor on offense, defense, and special teams. He’s one of the top placekickers and punters in Northeast Tennessee.
“We play as family, and everyone plays hard, added Kimble. “We read the ball well and nobody players for themselves. It’s team first, and everyone believes in each other. We respect all of our opponents, but we
also are confident in our abilities.”
This year Region 1-3A could be a dogfight between the Longhorns, Unicoi County, West Greene, and Chuckey-Doak. The Horns lost two games by a total of four points, 20-19 to Hampton and 36-33 to Gatlinburg-Pittman last season.
Lowe vows not to let that happen again.
“We turned it over too many times in both of those games, or we would have won,” said Lowe. “Those losses are going to make us hungrier than ever. They left a bad taste in our mouths that we don’t want to experience again. We’ve got to bring our A-game every night.”

JCHS cheerleader Charly Martin strikes a pose with the football during Media Day at the high school athletic field.