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Longhorns rally past state-ranked Highlanders

McFadden tackles Highlander

October 24, 2018

By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
[email protected]

ROAN MOUNTAIN–What is tabbed as one of the top two football games in Northeast Tennessee lived up to its billing on Friday. Johnson County rallied past Cloudland 14-8 before a capacity crowd at John Orr Field. The Longhorns (8-1) came into the game ranked No.5 in Class 3A while Cloudland (7-2) was No.6 in the very tough Class 1A poll. Fans in attendance got their money’s worth and then some. Nathan Lane picked off a pass with 40 seconds remaining in the game and ran it back 55 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Head coach Don Kerley was happy but drained after his team’s victory.

“It’s always tough to get a win here at Cloudland,” said Kerley. “Coach Lunsford does s a great job with those kids, and he has a very good football team. They were well prepared plus they have a lot of seniors who are very good football players. I thought our kids played hard and we didn’t have but one turnover. I would have been happy to have left here with a one-point win.”

The game was an old-fashioned slobber knocker from the get-go. Fans got to see a smash mouth football at its finest. Cloudland was driving downfield in the first quarter, but Lane’s first of three interceptions ended that scoring threat. Johnson County moved the ball past midfield on the following possession but turned it back over on Triston Lacy’s interception at their own 14. Neither team scored in the first quarter, but Cloudland continued to march downfield en route to an 84-yard touchdown drive in the second period. Jordan Coffey put them up 8-0 on a seven-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion with 7:23 remaining in the half. Johnson County got a 32-yard kickoff return by Lane following the score but couldn’t move the football against the Highlander’s stingy defense. Cloudland led 8-0 at halftime.

Johnson County had a golden opportunity to get on the board in the third quarter but missed a 32-yard field goal attempt. They made up for it on their next possession. Lane got the Longhorns on the board with a three-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining in the third. Troy Arnold’s two-point conversion pass to Zack Eller tied the game at 8-8. The game turned into an all-out war in the fourth quarter. The popping of pads could be heard high above the field outside the Gary Oaks Press-box.

Much of the noise was being made by Johnson County’s Tyler Norris who was disrupting everything that Cloudland tried to run. He pressured Malachia Benfield to hurry a pass on one third down possession that forced them to punt. He was also in on a hit delivered to Coffey that caused a fumble when the Highlanders appeared heading toward a go-ahead touchdown at the 27.

“I love this type of game where both teams line up and try to run it down your throat,” said Norris. “They did a good job of running their counters and sweeps, but we had to keep them out of the end zone. I felt like we had something to prove because Cloudland is a tough place to go and get a win. They have a good football but so do we. I think we showed that tonight.”

Johnson County had to punt on its last offensive possession, and Jared Kimble got his foot into one that traveled 42 yards down to the 19-yard line. Cloudland elected to run their hurry-up offense and moved the football near midfield at their own 45. The following play left their fans in shock.

The Landers tried to run the old hook and ladder play, but Lane would commit larceny for the second time. He picked off the pass and took it back 55 yards for the game winner. He sealed the deal with his third interception on Cloudland’s final possession.

“That was a really good team that we played out there tonight,” said Lane. “They had a guy go out in the flat, and another one went deep. I saw the play and realized what they were doing. I just stepped in front of the receiver and knew I was gone. It shows we want it and then we too can beat good teams. We had to work for this one, but it will help get us ready for Unicoi.

Norris was beast on defense collecting 22 tackles including a sack and two for losses. Troy Arnold and Weston Throop added a half dozen each. Tyrone McFadden and Jared Kimble each gathered five. Eller, Ethan Bower, and Colt Moody were in on four apiece.

“This was an old-fashioned football game where we lined up and hit each other hard,” said Arnold who managed the game well at quarterback. “The time was moving quickly off the clock, so we had to limit our mistakes. When Nathan intercepted the ball, he sort of bobbled it, and then he pulled it in, and I knew he was gone. He is a special player, and so is Tyler. They played unreal tonight, and we all just got behind them and gave our all. It was a big win over a good football team.”

Coffey led the Highlanders on offense with 170 yards rushing on 28 carries. Dillon Johnson and Josh Blair sparked the defense with 11 tackles each. Garrison Julian and K.J. Arnold collected eight and seven tackles respectively. Benfield and Conner Birchfield combined to compliment Coffey with 63 yards rushing.

“The Cloudland kids don’t have anything to be ashamed of,” added Kerley. “ We knew it was going to be a war from start to finish. We made some adjustments at halftime so give credit to our assistant coaches and the players for finding a way to win this football game. Coffey is good, and their lineman blocks hard. We’re lucky to leave here with a win. Now we have to get ready for Unicoi County.”

The Longhorns will travel to Erwin on Friday for a winner takes all showdown the No.10 Blue Devils. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm.

Johnson Co. 0 0 8 6 —14
Cloudland 0 8 0 0 — 8

Scorning Sum
2nd Quarter
CL–Coffey 7 run (Coffey run) 7:23
3rd Quarter
JC—Lane 3 run (Eller pass from Arnold) .28
4th Quarter
JC—Lane 55 interception return (run failed)

Team Stats
1st Downs 5 12
Rushing yards 32-98 46-251
Passes A/C/I 1-7-1 4-13-3
Passing Yards 3 38
Total Offense 101 89
Fumbles 1-1 0-0
Punts 3-38 2-33
Penalties 3-20 11-83

Individual Stats:
Rushing: JC— Lane 17-75, Arnold 10-18, Greer 2-3, Lowe 2-2. CL—Coffey 28-170, Birchfield 6-33, Benfield 6-30, Blair 5-4, Johnson 1-4.
Passing: JC—Arnold 1-7-0 3. CL–Benfield 4-13-3 38.
Receiving: JC—Eller 1-3. CL—Blair 2-24, Johnson 1-12, Coffey 1-2.
Sacks: JC—Norris. CL–None
Fumble Recoveries: JC—Lane. CL—None
Interceptions—JC—Lane 3. CL–Lacy
Tackles (4 or more): Johnson County —Norris 22, Lane 10, Throop 6, Lowe 5, McFadden 5, Kimble 5, Bower 4, Moody 4, Eller 4. Cloudland–Johnson 11, Blair 11, Julian 8, Arnold 8, Benfield 4, Birchfield 4.