By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
The grand ball was half over before Johnson County got its Cinderella glass slipper to fit. And by doing so they earned the third seed into the TSSAA playoffs with a come-from-behind 20-12 win over Unicoi County.
It was quite a second half performance by the Longhorns before a large crowd inside of Paul McEwen Stadium. They trailed 12-0 and their offense appeared to be headed nowhere. But a six-pack of sophomores sparked a second half rally and the end result would be a trip to CAK next Friday to play the 9-1 Warriors ranked No. 2 in the recent AP poll.
I thought we just gift wrapped two touchdowns in the first half, said Johnson Countys head coach Don Kerley. We told them at halftime to settle down and take what they were giving us. Our coaches made some good defensive adjustments and we went out there and executed. Im happy for our seniors because they were 0-3 and could have quit but they battled back. Our younger kids stepped up and played well too. We beat a very good football team. Were happy to come out of here with a win.
The Longhorns were moving the football on their first possession but their drive stalled on the 30. The Longhorns had two chances to pick up a first down needing only a yard but failed.
The inability to do so swung the momentum in Unicoi Countys favor.
The Blue Devils (4-3, 5-5) recovered a fumble at the Longhorns 21 and two plays later would take the lead.
Cameron Higgins scored from three yards out after Nick Fenders 18-yard run to the three.
Their second score came with 1:42 remaining in the half on a 3-yard run by Hunter Hensley. His 57-yard run on the drive set up the score.
Johnson County (4-3, 5-5) took the football inside a minute and moved deep into Blue Devil territory. Nathan Arnold was picked off near the goal line by John Sullins but his hustle saved the game. He made a touchdown saving tackle allowing Johnson County to remain within striking distance.
That set the tone for the second half in which Johnson County would slam the door shut on the Devils.
Arnold began the third quarter hotter than a pistol completing passes of 16 and 33 yards to Cody Bailie and Shane Greer. Gage Hampton would bull his way in for a 16-yard touchdown run on the very next play to whittle the lead at 12-7 after Rico Ortegas PAT.
The Longhorns took advantage of a short punt to mount a 41-yard touchdown drive on their next possession.
Samuel Icenhours 24-yard run got the ball deep down inside the red zone. Arnolds four-yard touchdown pass to Dakota Wright would put them in front to stay at 14-12 with 4:07 remaining in the third.
Johnson County tried to put the game away but a 67-yard touchdown run by Dakota Wright was called back for a block in the back. It was the fifth time that Wright has had a long touchdown run called back due to a penalty. But his short TD run was probably his biggest one of the season.
A missed PAT after Wrights four-yard touchdown with 2:03 remaining left the door open for Unicoi County to possibly tie.
But the defense would take over at that point.
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