By Tim Chambers
Sullivan Central was hoping to taste victory but Johnson County wasn’t about to let them cook up a win. The Longhorns came up with the perfect recipe that led to their 55-19 win on Friday inside the Paul McEwen Stadium.
A capacity crowd came to cheer on the state’s fourth ranked team in 3-A on Homecoming night. They didn’t disappoint after their slow start.
Central struck first on a 53-yard pass from Jackson Harrison to Hayden Fleenor. Harrison’s 2-yard plunge put Central up 7-0 with less than two minutes gone.
The Longhorns would reel off 20 consecutive points en route to a whopping 41-13 halftime advantage. Head coach Don Kerley was happy with their performance.
“We had a blown assignment on the long pass but the defense played great after that,” said Kerley. “I’m happy for our seniors to go out and win on Homecoming night. We had a lot of kids make big plays and they loved wearing the throwback jerseys. We had a hard time moving their big boy but we did find a way to move the football. I thought Nathan (Arnold) had a big game and so did Bud, Hayden and several others. The offensive line did a good job of pass blocking and Nate made some good reads down the field. We’re happy with the way they played.”
Arnold’s numbers were astounding against the Cougars. He completed 21-28 passes for 332 yards and five touchdowns.
His first one came on a 25-yard pass to Icenhour that tied the game at 7-7. A 31-yard interception and run by Jordan Edes-King set up the score.
“Jordan played well, a good all around game,” added Kerley. “He made a big play that turned the momentum in our favor.”
The Longhorns took the lead for good thanks to another great defensive play from senior defensive back Jimmy Bower. His 15-yard interception return to paydirt gave the Horns a 14-7 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
The Longhorns extended their lead to 20-7 on a 22-TD pass from Arnold to Shane Greer. But the Cougars would answer with the help of another big offensive play.
Austin Fleenor scored on a 2-yard run after catching a 35-yard pass from Harrison that set up the score.
It didn’t take long for the Horns to respond with two big plays that produced another touchdown.
Zack Eller’s 50-yard kickoff return gave Johnson County great field position at the Cougars 35. Icenhour took another offering from Arnold on the final 35 yards that extended their lead at 27-13 with 6:03 remaining in the half.
It only got better over the final six minutes of the half.
Arnold hooked up with Gage Hampton for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 2:19 remaining that made it 34-13. The most electrifying play in the game would shortly follow.
Icenhour’s 81-yard punt return for a touchdown came with 40 seconds remaining in the half. The Horns led 41-13 at the break.
“We weren’t about to let them get their first win in three years,” said Arnold. “We wanted to put the game away early. We didn’t want to lose on Homecoming.”
The Longhorns played a smorgasbord of players over the final two quarters but still managed to maintain their large lead.
Central scored on a 9-yard pass from Harrison to Fleenor in the third quarter but they had no answer for the Longhorns’ passing attack.
Arnold and Hampton hooked up for a 43-yard touchdown pass that made it 47-19. They added a safety later in the quarter then Hampton sealed it with a 24-yard touchdown run before the third quarter ended.
Reserves flooded the field during the final quarter for Johnson County.
Arnold’s passing yardage was reflected by the big numbers put up from his receivers.
Icenhour caught six passes from 90 yards and had two touchdowns. Hampton had six receptions for 80 yards and two TDs. Greer caught four balls for 80 yards and a score. Caden Arnold added three catches for 40 yards. Eller had 22-yard reception in addition to his long kickoff return.
“We had so many players step up and make big plays,” added Arnold. “But a lot of the credit should go to our offensive line. I didn’t get touched tonight. They gave me all the time I needed. The receivers did well and it wasn’t just Shane and Bud. Gage had a big game and so did Zack Eller, Caden Arnold and Jared Kimble. It makes my job easier if I can check down and throw to any of these guys. We have a lot of good players on this team.”
Osborne sparked the defense with 15 tackles including three for losses. Tyler Norris added eight tackles and a sack. RJ Snyder had seven stops including a blocked punt and sack. Edes finished with six tackles, an interception and a batted down pass. Bower broke up three pass plays in addition to his TD interception run and three tackles.
“It felt really good to see such a large crowd there to watch us,” said Osborne. “It felt like the whole Johnson County community was there. We came out a little too fired up and gave up a big play but we adjusted after that. Coach told us what we needed to do on the sideline and we fixed it.”
Johnson County faces a huge game on Friday night at West Greene. Osborne knows his team must come ready to play.
“We’ve got to keep our eye toward our goal of winning a conference championship,” added Osborne. “That’s what this game leads up to. They are a good team with a really good player. I have no doubt that we’ll come out ready to play on Friday.
Johnson Co 55, Sullivan Central 19
SC—Harrison 2 run (Powell kick) 10:05
JC—Icenhour 25 pass from N. Arnold (Kimble kick) 6:23
JC—Bower 15 interception return (Kimble kick) 11:49
JC—Greer 22 pass from N. Arnold (kick failed) 8:27
SC—Fleenor 2 run (kick blocked) 6:33
JC—Icenhour 35 pass from N. Arnold. (Kimble kick) 6:03
JC—Hampton 9 pass from Arnold (Kimble kick) 2:19
JC—Icenhour 81 punt return (Kimble kick) .40
SC—Fleenor 9 pass from Harrison (kick failed) 8:26
JC—Hampton 13 pass from N. Arnold (kick failed) 5:52
JC—Safety Ball snapped out of end zone 4:30
JC—Hampton 24 run (kick failed)
1st Downs 6 18
Rushing Att./Yds. 23-2 18-93
Passes A/C/I 14-31-3 22-29-0
Passing Yards 160 334
Total Offense 162 427
Fumbles 2-0 0-0
Punts 3-33 0-0
Penalties 10-80 16-133
Individual Stats (Johnson County Only)
Rushing: Hampton 10-70, T. N. Arnold 2-10, T. Arnold 2-9, Kimble 2-6, Webster 2- (-2),
Passing: N. Arnold 21-28-0 332, St. Greer 1-1-0 2
Receiving: Icenhour 6-90, Hampton 6-80, Greer 4-80, Kimble 2-22, C. Arnold 3-40, Eller 1-22
Sacks: Edes-King, Osborne, Norris, Snyder, Clawson
Fumble Recoveries: None
Interceptions: Edes-King, Bower, Lunceford
Tackles (3 or more): Osborne 14, Norris 8, Snyder 7, Edes-King 6, Bower 3, W. Kerley 3, Herman 3, Kimble 2, Clawson 2, Lane 2