By Tim Chambers
Bragging rights will be on the line Friday night inside Paul McEwen Stadium when Hampton and Johnson County collide on the football field for the 70th time. The Bulldogs lead the series 38-32 and have won the past two meetings. That last time the Dogs came to Mountain City, they spoiled what should have been an undefeated season for Johnson County by winning a 20-19 contest in a game where mistakes decided the outcome. Johnson County went on to win eight straight games after the loss before losing in the playoffs 36-33 to Gatlinburg-Pittman.
Hampton has dominated the series in recent years, and the Longhorn players are well aware of it. Sophomore quarterback Dalton Brown didn’t hide when speaking of Hampton. He knows they are good, but it’s still a big game.
“It might not be a conference game, but this one means a lot to us,” said Brown. “Hampton always has a good team. We played them in junior high and high school, so it definitely is a rival game.”
Head coach Don Kerley is well aware of the talent Hampton possesses. He said his team would have to play well to win the football game.
“No disrespect to this Hampton team, but I thought they were really good last year,” said Kerley. “They had some big ole backs, and those kids could run. This year they have an excellent quarterback in Connor Jones, and Aiden Vines is a very good running back with some speed. They’re beatable, but they are also very good. We have to eliminate turnovers and not make mistakes to beat them. It’s a game that our fans like to see us win.”
The Longhorns are 2-2 on the season with wins over Sullivan North and West Greene. Hampton comes in, undefeated at 3-0, and ranked 10th in the Class 2-A state poll.