By Tim Chambers
Sometimes the team that dominates time of possession doesn’t always win the football game. Johnson County proved that on Friday.
The Longhorns were turned away four times after getting inside Happy Valley’s red zone and lost a heartbreaking 13-6 contest on homecoming night on top of Warrior Hill.
It was an evening full of frustration for the Longhorns’ offense as their inability to put points on the board would come back to haunt them.
The boys drove down to the 13-yard line on their opening drive of the game but threw an interception to end that scoring threat. The Horns got down inside the 20 twice in the second half and another two times inside the 30 but came up empty-handed on each occasion.
Head coach Don Kerley agreed that it was a matter of them making just a few more plays than they did.
“We left too many points on the field and made too many mistakes in crucial situations,” said Kerley. “All of the teams we’ve played are pretty well even, but we aren’t winning our share of close games. We won a bunch of these back in 2017, but Happy Valley’s got a good football team and an excellent secondary. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up over the next couple of weeks. We need to win our remaining three games.”
The Longhorns will be favored in their next two games at North Greene and at home against Cloudland, which would set the stage for their season finale at home against Unicoi County with a home playoff game at stake.
Friday’s game was an indication that they must improve in all phases of the game to finish with a winning record.
Happy Valley’s taffy-like defense got stretched to the max, but it never fell apart, and their offense did just enough to score a baker’s dozen.
It all started on their first possession of the game as they marched 62 yards in just five plays to grab an early lead.
Jordan Campbell bulled his way in from the two, and Cameron Cochran added the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 9:51 remaining in the first quarter. A 38-yard pass reception by Will Tittle from Eli Ayers was the key play of the drive.
Johnson County scored its lone touchdown of the game with 6:20 remaining in the second quarter. Curtis Lowe’s 6-yard touchdown run capped off a 67-yard drive that took nine plays. They trailed 7-6 after the PAT when wide right.
A short kickoff gave the Warriors excellent field position at the own 44 after the score, and they wasted no time going on their second scoring march.
Matthew Bahn ripped off runs of 17 and 11 yards that led to his 4-yard TD run with 4:42 remaining in the half. The PAT was no good leaving the scoring at 13-6.
The second half would be played with each team putting up goose eggs on the scoreboard, although the Longhorns got close to scoring.
They had the ball at the 19-yard line in the third quarter but failed to score. Their best chance came late in the fourth quarter when they had it first and ten at the 12.
A costly fumble on first down resulted in a 9-yard loss after they elected to try and run wide. They couldn’t overcome the costly mistake and turned the ball over on downs at the 16-yard line with 4:34 remaining in the game.
The Warriors picked up a key first down on the final possession that allowed them to run out the clock and preserve the win.
For the second week in a row, the Longhorns’ got a mammoth game from Lowe who rushed for 150 yards on 20 carries. He had 106 yards at the half.
Happy Valley had a balanced rushing attack led by Bahn’s 98 yards on 14 carries. Campbell added 88 on 19 attempts. Ayers threw for 78 yards and ran for 28 more.
Colt Moody topped the Longhorns’ defense with ten tackles and an interception. Nathan Mink, Jia Webster, Corie Neely, Rice, and Ethan Icenhour logged five apiece.
The Warriors ended the night with 145 yards rushing and 75 passing. Johnson County could muster only 22 yards in the air on 2-of-11 passing. They dominated the ground game by rushing for 210 yards.
Johnson County now 3-4 will play at North Greene in another non-league matchup on Friday. Happy Valley (6-1) will travel to Sullivan North.
Johnson Co. 0 0 0 0 – 6
Happy Valley 7 6 0 0 – 13