By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
The wait is over for Johnson County football fans as the Longhorns will kick off the 2018 high school season at Sullivan East on Thursday due to Friday’s NASCAR race being held in Bristol.
The Longhorns finished 11-1 last season and went undefeated during the regular season. East ended the year at 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the region.
Three of those losses were to state 4A champion Greeneville, state 4A ranked and playoff team Elizabethton and the Longhorns who were ranked No.3 in 3A for eight weeks.
The Patriots would love to avenge the 34-0 loss they suffered to the Horns last year and believe they have the talent to do so. They got it going late in the year and ended up scoring a school record 62 points versus Volunteer in a game they won 62-25.
Key returning players for East:
The Patriots will be led by junior quarterback Dylan White who threw for 956 yards, 12 touchdowns and rushed for five more last year.
He’s a duel threat on offense that loves to take chances both on the ground and through the air.
The Longhorns must be aware of fullback Tanner Leffew and Eric Hare who will slide over to the running back slots. Corbin Patrick returns after leading the team in rushing last year. Mason Hayworth will be one of the team’s leading receivers.
The offensive line has good size up front with Dayne Davis, Clayton Rose, Jake Cross and Ethan Sneed. Jeff Jones and Clayton Ivester will share time at the tight end spot. Lake Mullins and Corbin Patrick will be the team’s top receivers.
“They got some good athletes especially their quarterback White and running back Leffew,” said JCHS’ head coach Don Kerley. “They also have some big kids in the line. We have 23 players gone off last year’s roster and 19 of them played. We got some good players returning but we’re also going to play a lot of young kids too. We’re going to try and play as many kids as we can.”
The Longhorns must move the football against the gigantic defensive line of East. Davis, Gabe Voorhees, Cameron Tolbert and Cross will tower over the smaller Longhorns O-line.
Tyler Lopez will lead the linebackers who should be young but athletic. Leffew and White will hold down the outside linebacker position while Mullins, Blake Scher and Dakota Deels will lead the secondary.
Longhorns’ lineup features new faces:
Johnson County will counter with a lot of different faces on both sides of the ball that include some freshman and sophomores.
Christian Krupsky will anchor the offensive line that includes freshman John Stout at tackle and sophomore Logan Gilley at center. Sophomore Ricky Fenner and Junior Lucas Walters will get the nod on the left side despite having no varsity experience.
The same can be said about the backfield that will feature senior Troy Arnold at quarterback.
“Troy has played well in our scrimmages and makes good decisions with the football,” said Kerley. “We’ll try and run him between the tackles some.”
The Longhorns would like to get the ball into the hands of their dynamic duo, Zack Elller and Nathan Lane who both possess lots of speed.
Stacey Greer and Jared Kimble could get a lot of reps in the back field while Eric Neely will line up as a wide receiver.
The defense will be led by senior standout Tyler Norris at middle linebacker who is expected to put up some massive numbers.
Cody Norris, Colt Moody, Curtis Lowe, Andrew Dugger, Krupsky, and Troy Arnold will all share time in the defensive line.
Kimble will play the stack linebacker spot as will Tyler Phillips Tyrone McFadden and Ethan Icenhour. Weston Troop and Stacey Greer will handle the outside linebacker spots while Lane and Eller will lead the secondary. Ethan Bower, Nathan Mink could see time while Cory Neely, another freshman will see time in the defensive backfield and as a receiver.
Final comments from
“We’re young and inexperienced at a lot of positions,” added Neely. “We have four, possibly five freshmen in Stout, Nate Rice, Neely, Icenhour and Zack Parsons who could all see some playing time plus a bunch of sophomores. I am proud of our kids because they got after it in our practices and scrimmages. All of them have done a good job. We’ve got a lot of big shoes to fill from the guys that we lost last year but our kids want to show everyone what they can do.”
Kerley said the game plan is simple.
“We have to cut down on our mistakes and take care of the football. I want them to play with confidence and go all out. We won some games last year that could have gone either way. I am hoping we can have another good year and it all starts on Thursday at East.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 at the Patriot Pasture.