By Jonathan Pleasant
Despite having the odds against them, the Johnson County Longhorn football team put up a valiant opening night effort against the extremely tough and highly ranked Tennessee High Vikings. Never losing their spirit, Johnson County fought for every yard down to the last minute. Even though the Longhorns didnt come away with the win, fans were still treated to an exciting game full of its own surprises.
Only a few minutes into the first quarter, the Longhorn offense put up one of their best performances of the night, providing Senior River Cazire an opportunity to break away and make an amazing 81-yard gain. Coming right on the heels of an unfortunate turnover that allowed the Vikings to make the first touchdown of the game, Cazire was determined to put the score back in Johnson Countys favor. I just told my blockers listen, if you can block for me I can get the job done. They did exactly what I asked them, said Cazire. I saw the hole and blew right through it. I have to give all the credit to the linemen; you could have drove a semi through that hole.
As Coach Mike Atwood pointed out, even the best plays dont always guarantee a touchdown. We were hoping we could build on that and get right back in the ball game, Atwood said. But the first thing we did was get a penalty to back us up. We just cant do that. We dont have the type of team that can recover from penalties. Were three or four yards at a whack, not big plays. When youve got to get to 15 instead of 10 it makes a big difference.
Even with trouble executing offensively, the Longhorns still put up a strong defensive game, and thanks to some quick action at the line, including an interception by Scottie Tester, the Vikings could not score again in the first quarter. However, despite this early defensive stalemate, Tennessee High began using their superior speed to pick up some costly turnovers in the second quarter, allowing them to reach the end zone three more times. Their speed just killed us, said Coach Atwood. We were opening holes that they were closing before we could get through them. Im pretty happy with the defense, but the offense has just got to execute better. Weve got to find some way to move the ball on solid teams like that.
By the end of the first half the score was a troubling 0-24, but even then the Longhorns did not lose focus. Throughout the third quarter the Longhorn defense worked hard to keep the Vikings at bay, succeeding with the exception of one final Tennessee High touchdown late in the 3rd. Offensively the effort was still plagued by penalties and turnovers, but there were several shining moments as well, most prominently a beautiful interception by Jimmy Morefield with less than a minute on the clock.
It was not until the last quarter of the game that the Longhorns finally made it on the scoreboard. Beginning with three hard fought first downs, Johnson County got the break they were looking for thanks to a successful pass from quarterback Warren Kerley. Narrowly making the catch, receiver Ryan Mahala utilized the 25-yard gain to put the Longhorns in position near the end zone and with just over four minutes left in the game, the team made its first appearance on the scoreboard at 6-31. With Mahala landing a successful kick, Johnson County made its last gain, closing the game out with seven.
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