Johnson County 35, Cloudland 8
By Tim Chambers
It wasn’t a must-win game, but it was a contest that Johnson County wanted to win after being dealt a 46-0 loss at home by Cloudland last year. And what sweet revenge it was. Ethan Bower scored four touchdowns, and Connor Simcox threw for three in leading Johnson County to a 35-8 blowout victory.
It didn’t appear like the game would be a blowout. It was tied at halftime 8-8. Cloudland ran 36 first-half plays to 12 for Johnson County, and they dominated the time of possession. But Johnson County made the big plays behind freshman phenom quarterback Connor Simcox and turned it into a romp.
The Longhorns struck paydirt on the second play of the game. Simcox hit a streaking Ethan Bower on a 44-yard touchdown pass to make the score 8-0 after Sam Mann’s 2-point conversion run.Cloudland would tie the game with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Seth Birchfield. Chase Shell’s pass to Bentley Gilbert on the 2 point conversion tied the game at 8-8, and that’s where the score stood at halftime.
Johnson County ran only 12 offensive plays in the first half to Cloudland’s 36. But all that would change after intermission. Johnson County’s head coach Don Kerley was jubilant after the game celebrating the victory with his players.
“We beat a champion out there tonight,” said Kerley about Cloudland. “We made some adjustments at halftime, and the kids came back out and played really good. I was proud of our defense because I thought they played very well tonight. We felt like we could throw it if we could get single coverage on Ethan. It’s a good win for us at a tough place to win at. We beat a championship team that is in the playoffs.”
Beating Cloudland has been a tough task. Last year they blasted the Horns at home 46-0, so the revenge was sweet.The Longhorns took the lead for good in the third quarter thanks to a 32-yard touchdown pass from Simcox to Bower.
They would break the game open in the fourth quarter by scoring 21 points.Bower caught touchdown passes of 6 and 3 yards from Simcox and Bower added a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“Ethan made some great catches tonight,” added Simcox. I was just trying to get the ball to him. We feel good about getting this win.”
Johnson County added icing to the cake late when Sam Man took a direct snap 61 yards down to the 12; then, it ran into the end zone on the next play for a touchdown. Senior Jenna Horner kicked the PAT to account for the final margin. Freshman quarterback Simcox completed 8-of-11 passes for 100 yards and three touchdowns. Bower had four catches for 80 yards and three touchdowns. Mann rushed for 82 yards on nine carries and a score.
“This was a big win because it gave us some momentum going into next Friday’s game at Unicoi County,” said Mann. “It also felt good to beat them after the way they beat us at our place last year.”
Kerley’s defense was led by Ryan Morefield, who collected 11 tackles, and ten by Joseph Gambill. Ricky Fenner had a huge fumble recovery that stopped a Cloudland drive.
“I just want to give a big shout out to Ricky Fenner, John Stout, and Jay Ortega, our defensive line,” said Morefield. “We had a good game plan, and those guys made it work to perfection.”
Johnson County was penalized 14 times for 99 yards, something they’ll need to clean up by Friday. The Longhorns (3-1, 5-4) will need a good game plan on Friday night as they travel to Unicoi County. A win would give them a tie for the conference championship. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm.
JCHS 8 0 6 21 – 35
Cloudland 8 0 0 0 – 8