Longhorns running back Ethan Icenhour (44) feels the pressure by the
Highlanders defense in Thursday night’s game.
By Beth Cox
Due to a scheduled teacher workday, the Longhorns bout against the 7th state-ranked Highlanders was moved to Thursday night, and while the crowd was a bit smaller, they made up for fan support.
The lower turnout at Paul McEwen Stadium had a lot to do with the change in the schedule, not to mention the potential for bad weather.
Johnson County was first to receive the football, but it didn’t take the Highlanders long to capitalize on a fourth-down halt of the Longhorns.
Highlanders quarterback Chase Shell hit the breadbasket to lightning speed Seth Birchfield for the touchdown, followed by the two-point conversion with Shell finding Caleb Sluder for the pass and completion.
Coach Don Kerley changed things up a little and put in Grinnan Walker as the quarterback while moving Connor Simcox to wide receiver.
Fans wondered what was going on, but it certainly did not take long to understand Kerley’s motives. Walker received the snap, looked for Simcox, who was in the end zone awaiting the throw. Walker threw the ball, heading straight to Simcox. A Cloudland defender got a piece of it, with fans thinking it was an interception, He tipped it, but Simcox grabbed the ball in the air and brought it in for the touchdown.
It was the most exciting part of the game for the Longhorns. The Longhorns tried for the two-point
conversion, but no good. Cloudland was leading 16-6 going into the second quarter.
Unfortunately, things did not get better for the Longhorns. The Highlanders came with Birchfield playing one of his best games and racking up many points for Cloudland before the half (30-6) along with his offensive partner, Sluder. The problems just kept coming for the Longhorns as Simcox was tackled right before the half and was sent to the locker room with an arm injury. Walker came in for Simcox and did a good job, but it was hard to get momentum with a robust defensive power from the Highlanders and an
unstoppable offense. Cloudland would add to the scoreboard.
Ethan Icenhour led the Longhorns with 11 rushing yards, followed by Grinnan Walker with 10.
Connor Simcox led with 30 passing yards before his injury took him out of the game. Walker had 1 for 9 in passing with one touchdown. Simcox got his name on the nine receiving yards with his sweet touchdown. Corey Neely gained the most in receiving with 14 yards, followed by Walker with 11, Ethan Simcox with eight, and Nate Rice with five receiving yards.
Ethan Icenhour, Trevor Henson, and Nathaniel Summerow had five tackles to their credit, followed by Ethan Simcox with four, Neely with three, Walker with three, Evan Dollar with two tackles Nate Dorman and Angel Martinez with one each. John Stout also got one tackle, but that tackle still has to be felt by the Cloudland punter who grabbed the ball on a bad snap but never saw the mighty Longhorn defender, Stout was there to rock his world. The Longhorns were behind 42-6, and then the storms came over the mountain and ended the game in the fourth quarter. The Longhorns finish the regular season Friday night with senior night. Johnson County will be hosting conference rival, the Unicoi Blue Devils. The good news is Connor Simcox may be able to make his way back to the quarterback position, stating his arm is better, and he’s just trying to protect it until the next ballgame.