By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Johnson County’s No. 9 state ranking in Class 3A didn’t impress a large number of sports prognosticators who picked them to get beat against undefeated Chuckey-Doak after last week’s loss to Hampton. Chalk one up for the upset-minded Longhorns who proved the naysayers wrong.
The Horns got some outstanding play from their four senior captains in their 43-23 conference win on Thursday inside of Paul McEwen Stadium. The quartet of Troy Arnold, Nathan Lane, Zack Eller and Tyler Norris made the bus trip back to Afton a long one for C-D.
“Our seniors played outstanding tonight, and I’ve very proud of them,” said Johnson County’s head coach Don Kerley. “We had a short week of practice, but they just came out here and put it together. Troy played a great game at quarterback and Nathan, and Zack made some huge plays on offense and special teams. I thought Tyler’s play on defense was as good as it gets. Just about every senior, we had played well and so did several of our underclassmen. Our defensive line was getting after it, and I can’t say enough about how well they played.”
Longhorns strike early:
Johnson County wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Nathan Lane hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Troy Arnold to give the Horns a 7-0 lead with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter after Jared Kimble’s PAT.
But that was just an appetizer.
Arnold continued his masterful play by hooking up with Eller on a 70-yard touchdown catch and run that gave the Horns a 13-0 advantage with 2:37 left in the first.
Johnson County’s game plan was to jump on them early.
“We wanted to come out here and redeem ourselves after losing the way we did last week,” said Arnold. “This was a big win for us, but we are not done yet. We wanted to get the lead early and get our fans into the game. We didn’t want a repeat of what happened last week against Hampton.”
It appeared as if the Longhorns would break the game open, but the Black Knights battled back to make it a game.
Nick Jennings took a direct snap 30-yard for a touchdown two plays into the second quarter.
They added a 31-yard field goal from Nico Rupke to get within three at 13-10.
Johnson County had a 56-yard touchdown pass from Arnold to Lane wiped off late in the quarter because of a holding infraction. The Longhorns ran out the clock in the final seconds of the half preserving their 13-10 advantage.
Second half surge:
Johnson County scored 30 points in the second half, but the offensive fireworks didn’t come early.
The Longhorns got inside the red zone but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Jared Kimble to go up 16-10 with 2:38 left in the third.
The Black Knights would take their first lead of the game on the ensuing kickoff thanks to a 94-yard kickoff return by Trevor Grubb to put them up 17-16 after the PAT.
That’s when the fireworks show began.
Silence from the visiting crowd is golden:
It took only a few seconds to bring the Black Knight fans back down to earth.
Lane took the kickoff at his own 10 and outraced everyone to the end zone for a 90-yard touchdown run to put them back on top at 22-17. But again their lead would evaporate.
Chuckey-Doak used a 20-yard touchdown run by Evan Murvin to surge back in front 23-22 with .36 seconds remaining in the third. But lighting would strike again for the second time.
Eller fielded the kickoff at his own 15 and outran everyone for an electrifying 85-yard touchdown return. Arnold two-point conversion pass to Eller put the Horns back on top 30-23 in the final seconds of the third.
“We thought our speed might hurt then some because they were really spread out on defense against Sullivan Central,” said Eller. “We’ve always said that speed kills and it did just that tonight. We hit some big plays that broke the game open. It feels great to bounce back and get a big win.”
The fourth quarter was all Longhorns.
The Longhorns defense would set up their next score and help break the game wide open.
Tyler Norris’ bone-crushing tackle forced a fumble that was recovered by Johnson County’s Curtis Lowe. Lane’s 8-yard touchdown pass made it 36-23 with 10:52 remaining in the fourth.
Their final touchdown came when Lane scampered into the end zone from 18 yards out with 7:42 remaining. Reserves closed out the final five minutes of the game.
Lane ended the night with 89 yards rushing on ten carries. He also added three catches for 43 yards in addition to his four touchdowns and 90 return yards for 222 all-purpose yards.
“Give credit to our offensive line because they held their own and gave me some holes to run through,” said Lane. “We had more speed than them on the outside and were able to beat their linebackers on the edges.”
The defense was led by the dominant performance of Norris who logged 22 tackles. He also caused a fumble and collected a sack.
“We had a good game plan, and we were well prepared because we knew what they did,” said Norris. “We wanted to shut down their big-play threats on defense because we knew our offense could score. This was a win we had to have.”
Eller added 90 yards receiving on three catches and 213 all-purpose yards including his returns. Arnold completed 7-of-15 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Curtis Lowe had a fumble recovery and five tackles. Tyrone McFadden logged eight tackles. Tyler Phillips and Weston Troop recorded four apiece. Andrew Dugger had a fumble recovery.
Johnson County (1-0, 2-1) will travel to Sullivan Central on Friday to battle the Cougars. Chuckey-Doak (0-1, 2-1) will face Sullivan North at home.
Johnson County 43,
CD 0 10 13 0 — 23
JC 13 0 17 13 — 43
JC—Lane 40 pass from Arnold (Kimble kick) 4:24
JC—Eller 70 pass from Arnold (kick failed) 2:37
CD—Jennings 30 run (Rupke kick) 11:16
CD—Rupke 31 FG (6:59)
JC—Kimble 30 FG (2:38)
CD—Grubb 94 kickoff return (Rupke kick) 2:23
JC—Lane 90 kickoff return (pass failed) 2:06
CD—Murvin 30 run (run failed) .35
JC—Eller 85 kickoff return (Arnold pass to Eller) .24
JC—Lane 8 run (kick failed) 10:52
JC—Lane 18 run (Kimble kick) 7:42
1st Downs 10 17
Rushing yards 36-155 25-148
Passes A/C/I 4-15-0 7-15-1
Passing Yards 35 155
Total Offense 190 303
Fumbles 2-2 1-1
Punts 4-40 3-38
Penalties 10-85 6-47
Rushing: JC— Lane 10-89, Webster 5-27, Arnold 7-28, Greer 1- Minus 3, Mann 2-7. C-D—Cutshaw 24-97, West 5-17, Jennings 4-40, Palazzo 4-0, Grubb 1-1
Passing: JC—Arnold 7-15-1 1. CD_-Palazzo 4-15-0 35
Receiving: JC—Eller 3-90, Lane 3-43, Kimble 1-22. CD—Jennings 2-11, Grubb 2-24
Sacks: JC—Norris 1. CD—None
Fumble Recoveries: JC—Lowe, Dugger. CD—Shelton
Tackles (4 or more): Johnson County only—Norris 22, McFadden 8, Lane 6, Lowe 5, Phillips 4, Troop 4.