By Tim Chambers
It’s hard to believe that a 4-5 football team would have a lot to play for, but that could be the case on Friday night inside of Paul McEwen Stadium. Johnson County (3-1, 4-5) will battle Unicoi County (3-1, 4-5) with a first-round home playoff game on the line, but it gets better.
The Longhorns can earn a share of the conference championship if West Greene (2-2, 5-4) can defeat Chuckey-Doak (4-0 and 5-4) at home.
The Black Knights have wins over Johnson County and the Blue Devils but would have to share the title if they lose to the Buffaloes.
Johnson County has been a hard team to figure out in 2019. They have been in nearly every game until Cloudland came to town on Friday. They were soundly beaten by the Highlanders 46-0 and showed very little fight over the 32 minutes on the field.
The Longhorns could muster only 36 yards of total offense by halftime, and many of their total yards for the game came on a final drive against the Highlanders’ second-team defense.
Unicoi County also enters the contest on a downslide. They will look to avenge a 35-12 defeat to the Horns last year in a game that decided the No. 1 seed in District 1 3A.
Nathan Lane scored five touchdowns against the Blue Devils who came into the game ranked No. 10 against the No.5-ranked Horns, but that is not the case this time around.
The Blue Devils return quarterback Brock Thomspon, and running back Kody Lewis off last year’s squad, so that is a significant concern for the Longhorns.
The Blue Devils were beaten at home by Volunteer 40-28, but their offense has been explosive. That could spell bad news for the Longhorns, who continue to struggle at nearly every position on offense.
Their inability to throw the football could also be a factor because the Blue Devils’ defense has had trouble against teams with a strong passing game.
Volunteer completed 10-of-14 passes for 206 yards in Friday’s win, and Cameron Johnson ran for 228 yards and two scores as the Falcons piled up 430 yards of total offense. The Blue Devils put up 53 points on West Greene, a team that Johnson County defeated 22-21. In that game, Lewis ran for six touchdowns and rushed for nearly 150 yards.
The Blue Devils lost a heartbreaking 36-34 contest to Chuckey-Doak on a pass deflection that bounced off a Blue Devil defender into a Black Knight’s receiver’s hands with less than
30 seconds remaining in the game.
Johnson County had the same type of bad luck. They fumbled on the 19-yard line late in the game when it appeared they were going in for the game-winning touchdown.
The winner of Friday’s game will play at home next week against Gatlinburg-Pittman. The loser must travel to Knoxville to face Austin-East.
Senior running back Jared Kimble is expected to be back in action for the Horns after injuring his shoulder in their win at West Greene. The Longhorns could look to play several players both ways with so much riding on the game.
“There is still a lot to play for,” said head coach Don Kerley after Friday’s loss to Cloudland. “You never know how kids are going to play from week to week. We’ll have to play well against Unicoi County. They have a pretty good football team.”
Johnson County will
honor its senior athletes on Friday.