By Tim Chambers
Johnson County scored in a variety of ways to spoil North Greene’s homecoming on Friday night down at the Tundra. The Longhorns overcame an early 7-6 deficit to dismantle the Huskies 45-22 in chilly-like conditions in Baileyton.
The win ran the Longhorns’ conference record to 3-1 tied with Unicoi County for second place. The overall season record stands at 4-4.
The game was of some concern for head coach Don Kerley because the kids were on their fall break. He was curious as to how they would respond.
“It’s hard to play during an off week when there is no school, but our kids played hard and overcame some mistakes,” said Kerley. “We struggled passing early in the game, but they were stacking the middle and putting everybody on the line. We took what they gave us. I thought we played well defensively and our offense got better as the game went on. It was good to get a win after losing to Happy Valley last week in a game where we could have won. Now we have to get ready for Cloudland next week.”
North Greene tipped their hand early as to how they planned on staying in the game. Their first pass of the game was picked off by Johnson County’s Ethan Bower, who returned it 32 yards for a touchdown to make it 6-0. But that didn’t stop the Huskies from airing it out.
Brayden Garber would hit a streaking Zeke McDonald with an 85-yard touchdown pass to put the Huskies on top 7-6 after Melvin Maiz’s PAT on their very next offensive play.
It stayed that way through one-quarter of play due to Johnson County turning the ball over twice. But the Longhorns found their grove in the second quarter.
Longhorns grind it out
Johnson County began to solve the Huskies’ defense despite the outstanding play of their two linebackers Tyler Sanchez and Jon Harrison. Sanchez amassed 20 tackles and Harrison 10 that accounted for 30 of their team’s 42.
The Longhorns took the lead for good on a 4-yard touchdown run by Stacy Greer with 10:45 remaining in the second quarter.
Greer would tack on a 1-yard run later in the period to put the Horns in front 20-7 at the half. He felt like the lead should have been more.
“We struggled some on offense early and left some points on the field, but it was good to get this conference win,” said Greer. “We’ve tried to instill a winning tradition here at Johnson County, and now being able to play to host another first-round home playoff game proves that. We’ve done that the past two years, and we want to keep this thing rolling. We want to win our next two then focus on the playoffs.”
Johnson County started the third quarter off with a bang. Lucas Phillips intercepted a pass and took it 39 yards for a touchdown to start the third. Greer then hooked up with a streaking Will Henson down the sideline for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
“It was actually supposed to be a run play, but they never had anyone line up one me and Stacy made a good read,” said Henson. “There was nobody between me and the end zone. We executed the play and scored a touchdown.”
Greer saved his best touchdown pass for last, a 73-yard bomb to Phillips that increased their lead at 39-14 with 1:05 remaining in the third quarter after North Greene had scored just seconds earlier.
“It was a five and out where Stacy pumped-faked, and I took off,” said Phillips. “Will Henson ran my guy off, and I was wide open. I saw a guy between me and the end zone, so I cut back and got by him to score.”
The Longhorns led 38-14 going into the fourth quarter.
Points keep adding
including a historic one
A historic moment came with 9:17 remaining in the game. Jia Webster scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge, but it was the conversion try afterward that had everyone on their feet.
Jenna Horner split the uprights with a perfect kick for her first varsity points as a Longhorn. She was elated with her history-making kick that is believed to be the first varsity point ever scored in football by a female student-athlete at Johnson County.
“It felt really good to finally get one,” said Horner. “I had my head down, so I didn’t know it had gone through until everyone started cheering. That had been a goal of mine to score in a varsity game ever since I started kicking. I’m happy that coach gave me the chance.”
North Greene tacked on a final touchdown against
the Longhorns’ reserves on a 2-yard run by Reynolds
The Longhorns could have scored thanks again to three nice runs by Dalton Brown but chose to take a knee and run out the clock with the ball resting on the four-yard line.
Season-high total yards
Johnson County complied a season-high 364 yards of total offense against the “Pack Dogs” defense. Greer rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and completed 3-of-11 passes for 103 yards and two more TD’s. Curtis Lowe ran for 60 yards on 13 carries. Sam Mann added 50 yards on eight carries, and Brown provided 44 yards on five attempts.
Phillips scored a pair of TD’s on his 73-yard catch and a 39-yard interception return. Bower had two interceptions and Webster two fumble recoveries.
There were not a lot of tackle opportunities for the Longhorns due to 18 incomplete passes fired by North Greene and several times where their runners went out of bounds.
Colt Moody and Webster had five tackles each to lead the Longhorns. Phillips, Joseph Fox, Nate Rice, and Corrie Neely added three apiece, while Fox and Ethan Icenhour provided a sack each.
North Greene was held to minus 34 yards rushing. Garber completed 17-35 passes for 208 yards but was intercepted three times.
Ethan Atnip had six catches for 100 yards and McDonald finished it off, adding five catches for 96 more.
The Longhorns will step outside of conference play against on Friday to face Cloudland at home. The Highlanders defeated Jellico on Friday 50-28 to win the District 1A championship.
Kerley agreed that their final regular-season game against Unicoi County would be big but said they wouldn’t overlook Cloudland.
“We want to win these last two games for our seniors and finish with a winning record. Cloudland is a rival game, and they always have a pretty good football team. We need to cut back on our mistakes, and that starts on Friday. We’ll have to come out ready to play.”
Johnson Co 6 14 18 7 –45
North Greene 7 0 7 8 –22
JC—Bower 39 interception return (Kick failed) 7:58
NG—McDonald 85 pass from Garber (Maiz kick) 7:32
JC—Greer 4 run (Lowe run) 10:45
JC—Greer 1 run (kick failed) .34
JC—Phillips 39 interception return (kick failed) 11:39
JC—Henson 26 pass from Greer (kick failed) 5:33
NG—Reynolds 1 run (Maiz kick) 1:33
JC—Phillips 73 pass from Greer (kick failed) 1:05
JC—Webster 1 run (Horner kick) 9:37
NG—McDonald 5 pass from Garber (Maiz kick) 4:33