By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Johnson County’s first three possessions in a must-win game against Pigeon Forge pretty much summed up their 2016 home football season. They came up empty-handed in all of them.
A 21-7 loss to the Tigers on senior night inside of a wet Paul McEwen Stadium was aided by three costly turnovers on their first three possessions.
Two mistakes led to a pair of Pigeon Forge touchdowns and the other cost Johnson County a score. Head coach Don Kerley complimented the Tigers despite his team shooting themselves in the foot numerous times.
“Pigeon Forge had some tough losses early like we did, but now they are playing well,” said Kerley. “Everyone in our league is fairly even aside from Elizabethton. The game tonight came down to turnovers and missed opportunities. We had three and they didn’t have any. They took care of the football and we didn’t. That was the difference in the game.”
Kerley couldn’t have stated it any better.
Johnson County drove to midfield on its first possession but fumbled the ball at the 49. The Tigers would convert that into the game’s first score.
Colby Manis reeled off seven consecutive carries capped off by his 2-yard touchdown run. Nicky Sisto added the PAT for a 7-0 advantage.
The Longhorns were moving the football on their second possession but were faced with a fourth-and two at the 35. They elected to go for the first down but were stopped about two inches short, allowing the Tigers to take over deep in the Horns territory.
Dawson Day’s one-yard plunge late in the quarter enabled the Tigers to take a 14-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
“We probably should have punted but we were moving the football pretty good,” added Kerley. “I felt like we could pick up two yards. They got a little lower on the line than we did and got a little push on both sides of the ball. They won the battle up front but this is all fixable. You are going to play good people late in the year because everyone wants to get second place and stay at home. We had a great opportunity but couldn’t get it done.”
Their greatest opportunity came in the second quarter after driving the ball down to the one-yard line. The possession started with a pair of penalties that backed them up 10 yards but the Horns were able to overcome that.
Gage Hampton turned a screen pass from Nathan Arnold into a 21-yard gain. Two carries later the Horns were on the one-yard line when disaster struck.
They failed to snap the football on a quarterback sneak attempt that resulted in a 5-yard penalty, then fumbled the ball away on their next play.
Fortunately they finally got on the board before the half ended.
Shane Greer’s 46-yard touchdown reception from Arnold cut the deficit in half at 14-7 after Jared Kimble’s PAT.
The Longhorns missed a 43-yard field goal to end the half.
Pigeon Forge used a ball control offense to perfection throughout the second half and dominated time of possession.
Johnson County drove to the 31-yard line on their first possession but turned it over on downs. They wouldn’t see the ball again until late in the fourth quarter.
Pigeon Forge never relinquished the football until 3:51 remaining in the game. Manis capped off the mammoth drive with a 2-yard run that put them up 21-7.
The Longhorns drove deep into Tiger territory again on their final possession but were intercepted near the goal line. The Tigers would run out the clock from there.
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