By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Just like Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, the Longhorns were “grrrrrrrrrreat!” on Friday against No. 9 ranked Cloudland in a battle of two state ranked teams. Johnson County, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, dominated the 1A Highlanders in the second half that led to their impressive 30-16 victory before a capacity crowd inside of Paul McEwen Stadium.
The Longhorns are now 9-0 overall and will play Unicoi County at home on Friday in their final regular season game. Head coach Don Kerley was happy with the way his team took over in the second half.
“They are a well coached team with some good athletes,” said Kerley. “The Coffey kid was averaging nearly 250 yards rushing per game and we held him to 40 yards which is pretty impressive. I thought we should have scored one more touchdown in the first half, and then we gave up one to them on the last play before halftime. That hurt but I was pleased with the way our kids played especially in the second half. Cloudland was 7-1 and ranked in their classification. They’re not coming in here and laying down. They played hard the whole game, but I felt like we wore them down in the second half.”
The Longhorns defense set the tone on Cloudland’s opening drive forcing them to punt after three plays. Pressure by Tyler Norris allowed him to get a hand on the punt that traveled only 12 yards, giving the Horns possession at the Landers’ 48.
Shane Greer’s 10-yard run got the ball rolling, then Caden Arnold dazzled the crowd with a 17-yard sprint that put them inside the red zone at the 15.
The Longhorns finally found the end zone on a fourth and 10 from the 14. Nathan Arnold lofted a beautiful fade pass to Shane Greer who managed to stay inbounds after his circus catch in the end zone.
Tyrone McFadden, back from a recent injury, booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead at the 7:48 mark.
The Highlanders showed their savvy by marching 80 yards in 13 plays to regain the lead at 8-7. Jordan Coffey scored from two yards out and Malachi Benfield ran in the two-point conversion with 2:07 remaining in the quarter.
It would be their last lead of the game.
Johnson County rode the play of Nathan Arnold, who led them to their go-ahead touchdown. The senior signal caller had an electrifying 29-yard run, then fired a strike to Bud Icenhour for another 16-yard gain on their next possession that got them inside the 10.
Gage Hampton’s 4-yard burst to the end zone put them in front 13-8, but the two-point conversion attempt failed. This came on the first play of the second quarter.
Johnson County continued to drive the football after the defense held Cloudland in-check on their next possession. The Horns once again drove down inside the red zone, but Arnold was picked off by Cloudland’s Jacob Singleton that stalled the drive at the five.
The Highlanders moved the ball near midfield, but Coffey’s fumble was recovered by Nathan Lane giving Johnson County another scoring opportunity.
Icenhour cut loose on a 13-yard gain followed by a 25-yard shuttle pass from Arnold to Greer. The duo hooked up again on a 5-yard touchdown pass that put them up 20-8 after McFadden’s Pat with 1:18 remaining in the half.
A short kickoff gave the Highlanders possession at midfield and a pair of successful pass plays had them on JC’s 25. Benfield edged the Landers closer by connecting with Triston Lacy for a 23-yard touchdown on the final play of the half. Coffey added the conversion run keeping Cloudland in the game at 20-16.
Johnson County found the perfect solution to take over the game in the second half. They ran 47 plays to Cloudland’s 22 and kept the football for over 18 minutes.
Cloudland was flagged for roughing the punter in the end zone on Johnson County’s opening possession of the third quarter that proved to be costly.
The Horns got the ball at the 19 then Troy “the bull” Arnold bulldozed his way for a 30-yard gain up the gut that moved the football to midfield.
The Horns were later forced to punt but Cloudland coughed up the football on their first play that was recovered by Lane at the Highlander 30. This time they would find paydirt.
Nathan Arnold shuttled a pass to Troy Arnold for a 16-yard gain and picked up another 10 yards on a successful scramble.
Hampton’s 3-yard touchdown plunge gave the Horns a 27-16 advantage after McFadden’s third PAT. Arnold said that going up by 11 was huge.
“Troy and Gage ran the ball great and that allowed us to control the football,” said Arnold. “Scoring first in the game was huge and we did it again in the third quarter – that was even bigger. Our defense played outstanding and they allowed us to get some great field position. We wanted to beat Coach Lunsford bad because he put 50 points on us my sophomore season while he was at Hampton. It was more about beating him than it was Cloudland.”
It was Johnson County’s next drive that would seal the deal despite not finding the end zone.
They regained possession at their 19 and ran off 14 plays while reaching the 10-yard line. Kerley elected to attempt a 28-yard field goal and McFadden was perfect.
The sophomore had missed the past three weeks after being injured in a JV game. He had to be air-lifted to Mountain States Hospital in Johnson City but received his medical release on Friday morning.
He airlifted his field goal and three extra points in addition to a 47-yard punt that pinned Cloudland deep.
“Coach came down and called out extra point team which surprised me,” said McFadden. “I was so glad he gave me an opportunity to help our team win. I looked up and saw the crowd cheering and it meant so much. I was thinking about Jared (Kimble) who had kicked all year before getting hurt against North Greene. I wanted to do good for him and the team.”
The Horns led 30-16 with 6:37 remaining in the game.
Cloudland’s attempt to move the ball by way of air was grounded when Lane picked off Benfield’s pass at the 35. The Landers got the ball back inside two minutes but failed to connect on three straight passes.
Arnold took a knee on the final two plays with the Horns in their victory formation.
Arnold had a big night, completing 12-18 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 50 on nine rushing attempts.
Troy Arnold once again was solid, gaining 84 yards on nine carries. Gage Hampton added 65 yards on 15 rushes and caught three passes for 26 yards. Caden Arnold who provided some strong play in the secondary, had a 12-yard reception and a 17-yard run.
Shane Greer contributed five catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns. Bud Icenhour provided a good all-around game on both sides of the ball.
The defense got a big time performance by Lane who racked up 12 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. He said their goal was to shut them down after they scored on the last play in the first half.
“We weren’t about to let them win this football game,” said Lane. “We felt like they couldn’t run on us and our offense didn’t let them have the ball much after halftime. I feel like we wore them down by playing a lot of players. Hayden got us fired up especially at halftime. We didn’t give up any big plays after that.”
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