By Tim Chambers
A “refuse to lose” attitude carried Johnson County to victory in their football season opener on Friday before a large crowd inside of Paul McEwen Stadium. The stubborn Longhorns came away with a 14-13 victory over Sullivan East after Dylan White’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone with just four seconds remaining in the game.
It was the same amount of points that the Horns scored at East last year in their 14-0 shutout victory only this win didn’t come easy.
The Longhorns were their own worst enemy in the first half. They fumbled away three scoring opportunities after moving the football deep in East territory. The turnovers didn’t sit too well with head coach Don Kerley who felt like their effort wasn’t up to par either.
“The coaches and I were pretty tough on them at halftime,” said Kerley. “We challenged them to play with a lot of heart and to quit making mistakes because they hadn’t done anything to stop us. I’m proud of the kids for the way they responded in the second half because it takes a lot to accept the criticism like we dished out. We felt like if it was close in the fourth quarter that we could win the football game. We just had to find a way to get back in it. We did that in the third quarter.”
Patriots having their way
East made it look easy in the early going getting on the scoreboard on their opening drive. Clayton Ivester 13 yard touchdown reception from Dylan White capped off an eight-play, 70-yard drive that put them in front 7-0.
The Longhorns quickly went to work on their first possession. They nickel and dimed the ball downfield on a 16-play drive that carried over into the second quarter. The big play was a 36-yard pass from Stacy Greer to Nate Rice on a third-down play with 34 yards needed to get a first down.
They appeared headed for pay dirt after reaching the 11-yard line until the first costly turnover would occur. Zechariah Steinmann recovered a fumble for East at their own 13, allowing the Pats to dodge a bullet.
East would score their final touchdown of the game on a 46-yard run by Mason Hayworth with 5:16 remaining in the half giving the Patriots a 13-0 advantage after a failed conversion try.
The Horns fumbled the ball away two more times, including the last one that allowed East to regain the momentum. They coughed up the football at the ‘Pats 8-yard line when it looked like they were ready to get their first score.
The Patriots were content to run out the clock after dodging another bullet and headed to the locker room with a 13-0 halftime lead.
Kimble and Greer to the rescue
After Kerley and his coaches had conducted their halftime revival, the Horns came out “revived” to start the second half.
Johnson County mounted a 7-play, 68-yard drive with Greer and Kimble eating up the real estate.
Greer extended a couple of third-down plays with quarterback sneaks, and Kimble had a pair of nice gains including a 9-yard touchdown run at the 8:56 mark. His PAT kick pulled them within six at 13-7.
The Patriots failed on three straight pass attempts on their first possession in the third quarter and had to punt the ball back to Johnson County. It was a “dynamic duo” that provided the fireworks for a second time.
Kimble hauled in Greer’s pass and took it 62 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. He kicked the extra point giving the Horns a 14-13 lead with 7:33 remaining in the quarter.
Kimble said the team was confident after their halftime lecture.
“The coaches got us motivated to go back out there in the third quarter and told us not to turn it over and keep moving the football,” said Kimble. “They told us to get the game in our hands, and we did. We fought like crazy and got the win, but we must clean up a lot of things this week in practice. We’ve got to eliminate our turnovers. We should have won this game by a much larger score.”