By Tim Chambers
Happy Valley’s quest to erase last year’s loss to Johnson County failed on Friday inside of Paul McEwen Stadium. The No. 7 state-ranked Longhorns dominated play from start to finish in their 28-7 victory over the Warriors.
Happy Valley had lost to the Horns 14-7 last year in a game where both teams were state ranked. That wasn’t the case for the visitors on this night.
The Warriors (2-4) lost their starting quarterback Will Tittle for the season just a few weeks ago
but did have a signature 27-13 win over Unicoi County earlier this season.
LONGHORNS SCORE EARLY
Bad luck would plague the Valley on their opening possession.
The Warriors started at the 20 and lost nine yards on their first play. They were forced to punt from their end zone where they mishandled the snap. Curtis Lowe pounced on the football giving the Horns a 6-0 advantage.
Head coach Don Kerley felt like that getting off to a good start helped his squad. He praised his seniors for their outstanding play.
“Our seniors stepped up and made some big plays, and that
allowed us the opportunity to
win the way we did,” said Kerley. “I was pleased with the way our receivers caught the ball especially Zack Eller. You can’t say enough about how well Nathan Lane and Tyler Norris played, so did the
rest of our seniors. It’s always big when you beat Happy Valley because they are well coached and they all play hard. Our underclassmen also stepped up and did a good job too.”
The Warriors had trouble moving the football against the Longhorns, but they did have a couple of scoring opportunities.
They failed to convert on a 29-yard field goal attempt and managed only 40 yards of total offense by halftime.
THE MAIN FELLOW
The Longhorns took to the air that led to their second touchdown.
Zack Eller hauled in a couple of passes from Troy Arnold that covered 42 and 35 yards respectively. Lane later scored on a two-yard run with 1:58 left in the first quarter. He added the two-point conversion for a 14-0 advantage.
“We felt pretty good getting up by two touchdowns,” said Arnold. “The line blocked well, and our receivers got open. I thought our defense was the difference. Tyler Norris was all over the field, and everybody was flying to the football. It’s special when you get a win over them.”
Happy Valley’s lone touchdown came with the help of a Longhorn’s miscue. They got the ball on the four-yard line after Johnson County mishandled a punt and threw an incomplete pass out of their end zone.
Eli Ayers scored from one yard out on fourth down to cut the deficit to 14-7 after Michael Harrah’s PAT with 2:17 left in the first half.
The momentum established by the Warriors was quickly taken back by the Longhorns on their next possession.
They marched 65 yards with the help of two big pass plays to score just before the half ended.
Arnold hooked up with Eller for 34 yards then added an 18-yard touchdown pass to Lane with 1:49 showing before intermission. Jared Kimble’s PAT made it 21-7 at the half.
“We felt like we could throw the ball on them,” said Eller. “They got the ball, and I tried to make things happen. It felt good that they kept calling my number. A huge win for us over our rival.”
Neither team could muster any offense in the third quarter, as both teams were held scoreless. Happy Valley had the ball inside the red zone twice thanks to a 29-yard punt return from Tyler Norris and a 23-yarder from Eller but couldn’t convert including a 23-yard field goal attempt.
LANE FOR SIX
The Warriors put together a nice drove down to the five-yard line but were turned away by the Longhorns’ defense. From there they would deliver the fatal blow.
Lane broke loose for a 95-yard touchdown run up the gut that accounted for the final score with 8:23 remaining. Coach Kerley would empty the bench at that
Lane ended the night with 147 yards on 14 carries. He also added eight tackles on defense.
“I felt like we would break one before the night was over,” said Lane. “I knew they wouldn’t catch me if I could get into their secondary. The line blocked well, and our defense played outstanding. It feels great to get another win over them.”
Eller caught four passes for 120 yards and five tackles on defense. Arnold completed 7-of-15 passes for 152 yards. But it was the defense that stood out most.
Tyler Norris racked up 18 tackles including three for losses and a sack. Lowe added nine tackles and had the fumble recovery for a touchdown. Weston Throop contributed eight tackles and did an excellent job of shutting down the run game. Ethan Bower had a critical interception that kept the Warriors from scoring.
“Our goal was to shut them down and keep them out of end zone,” said Norris. “We didn’t give them anything the whole game.”
Lowe added. “We wanted to get ahead early and take their fans out of the game.
It’s always tough when we play them because both schools don’t like one another.”
Dakota Cochran supplied most of Happy Valley’s offense. He ended the night with 110 yards on 27 carries, many of them from the wildcat package.
Happy Valley totaled 170 yards of total offense. They were 3-of-13 passing for 20 yards.
The Longhorns rushed for 203 yards and added 152 more in the air.
Luke Naylor led the Warriors on defense with ten stops.
Johnson County (6-1) will clinch a first-round home playoff game with a win over winless North Greene on Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 on Harold Arnold Field.
H.V. 0 7 0 0 — 7
J.C. 14 7 0 0 —28
JC—Lowe recoveries fumble in end zone (Kick failed)
JC—Lane 3 run (Lane run)
HV—Ayers 1 run (Harrah kick)
JC—Lane 18 pass from Arnold (Kimble kick)
JC—Lane 95 run (Kimble kick)
1st Downs 8 10
Rushing yards 39-130 27-203
Passes A/C/I 3-13-1 7-17-2
Passing Yards 20 152
Total Offense 150 355
Fumbles 1-1 1-0
Punts 5-25 2-35
Penalties 9-65 7-68
Rushing: JC— Lane 14-147, Greer 6-30, Kimble 2-12, Arnold 2-6, Lowe 1-4,
Mann 1-4, C. Neely 1-0. HV—Cochran 27-110, Campbell 7-29, Ayers 5-(minus 9)
Passing: JC—Arnold 7-15-2 152, Kimble 0-2-0 0. HV—Ayers 1-7-0 4, Cochran 2-6-1 16
Receiving: JC—Eller 4-120, Lane 2-22, Greer 1-10. HV—Hyatt 2-16, Carter 1-4.
Sacks: JC—Norris, Lowe
Fumble Recoveries: None
Interceptions—JC—Bower. HV—Little, Cochran
Tackles (3 or more): Johnson County only—Norris 18, Lowe 9, Lane 8, Throop 8, Eller 5, Greer 5, Icenhour 4, Woody 4, Rice 3, Phillips 3, Moody 3, McFadden 3. HV—Naylor 10, Cochran 8, Little 4,