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Longhorns upset state-ranked Claiborne

Johnson County 40, Claiborne County 27

By Tim Chambers 
Sports Editor

Not many prognosticators were giving Johnson County a chance playing on the road 140 miles away from Mountain City, against undefeated No.7 ranked in the state’s Class 3A poll, Claiborne County.  But the Horns rode the stellar play of their freshman quarterback Connor Simcox to a 40-27 upset win on Friday night to save a possible chance of hosting a first-round playoff game at home.

Head coach Don Kerley and his staff were ecstatic after the game praising the players for the way they bounced back after the Hampton loss.  Claiborne head coach, Nathan Medlin, detailed his team’s play. 

“We have to play with passion, stay the course, and be great teammates,” he said. “Defensively, we have to shut down their run game. Offensively we have to execute every snap. Tonight we didn’t do that.”

Nor did they defend the pass well either.Freshman quarterback Connor Simcox threw for two touchdowns and 190 yards in his first varsity start. Claiborne County got on the board first in the game after stopping the Longhorns on their first possession.  Eli Stone fired a 44-yard touchdown pass to Challen Massengill on their first offensive play of the game to go up 7-0 after the PAT.

However, the Longhorns wasted no time getting on the board, going 90 yards in 11 plays to take the lead. Stacy Greer plowed through most of the real estate with some hard running and later found the end zone from two yards out; then added a two-point conversion to put the Horns up 8-7 with 4:48 left in the first quarter.That lead didn’t last long as Jimmy Del Ervin scored a 5-yard TD that gave Claiborne a 14-8 advantage. 

Johnson County kept their foot on the gas and quickly erased the deficit. They tied the game when Greer ran over a would-be tackler at the goal line and scored from a yard out with 6:32 remaining in the first half. The Horns got a big break when Claiborne fumbled the ball on a fourth and short while driving at the 3:38 mark.The Horns made them play by scoring with 37 seconds remaining in the half on a 16-yard pass from Simcox to Dalton Brown that made it 20-14.

The Longhorns’ defense stiffened by stopping Claiborne in the third quarter after driving the ball down to the 29-yard line.A costly penalty gave them another chance to continue the drive, and they did so successfully. Storm Livesay found the end zone that put the Bulldogs back on top 21-20, which stood at the end of the third quarter.

Johnson County had an 80-yard touchdown pass from Simcox to Aiden Walker, which was called back that would have put them back on top, but they didn’t panic. They managed to retake the lead after the Bulldogs scored again and led 27-20.  The Horns used Simcox’s dual combo to Walker for a 60-yard touchdown pass with Greer adding the two-point conversion to go on top 28-27 with 6:40 remaining in the game. The Longhorns could taste victory after a hard hit by Ethan Icenhour forced a fumble on Claiborne’s next possession recovered by Corie Neeley at the 45.

Greer was a beast from the East on the drive making several key runs and gaining some tough yards that ate up a bunch of the clock. He finished off the drive by scoring on an 18-yard run with 4:40 remaining to put the Horns up 34-27 that sent the visitors side into a frenzy.

Greer would later add a 4-yard touchdown run after Claiborne had scored, and Icenhour would seal the win by sacking quarterback Stone. Icenhour had a big night on defense, collecting ten tackles and a sack on the day they buried his grandpa and faithful Longhorn fan Delmer Icenhour. 

Ryan Morefield had another big night with nine stops, while Neeley and Greer logged eight apiece. Trever Henson pitched in with seven.Simcox sparked the offense completing 6-of-10 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Aiden Walker had six catches for 170 yards, and Stacy Greer rushed for 85 yards on 15 caries being the stellar line play of Ricky Fenner, Big John Stout, and Connor McNutt. Greer also scored four touchdowns.The Longhorns are now 3-3 overall and will host Happy Valley on Friday night inside Paul McEwen Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm.