By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Johnson County has enjoyed wins over rivals Hampton, Happy Valley and Cloudland in 2017 but none of those games can equal the importance of Friday’s contest against Unicoi County.
The Longhorns will host the Blue Devils on senior night inside of what is expected to be a jam packed Paul McEwen Stadium.
It’s a must game the Horns need to win in order to secure their first ever Mountain Six Conference championship. It would also clinch top seed in the playoff.
A win by Unicoi County and a Chuckey-Doak victory over West Greene would give the Blue Devils top seed in the playoffs. Johnson County could claim the top spot should West Greene defeat the Black Knights at home on Friday regardless of their outcome.
The Longhorns can finish no worse than second but a lot is riding on this game.
It was the Blue Devils that bounced them from the playoffs last year with a 28-14 home win on the last game of the regular season.
Linebacker Hayden Osborne remembered it well.
“It hurt walking off the field and knowing that we weren’t going to the playoffs,” said Osborne. “We’ve had a year to think about it. There is much more at stake this time around. We want to beat them and we’ll come out ready to play.”
Unicoi County (5-4, 3-1) was off this week and many of their coaches and players witnessed Johnson County’s 30-16 win over No. 9 ranked Cloudland of 1A on Friday. The Blue Devils were defeated at home 23-15 by West Greene in their last outing.
The Blue Devils trailed 23-0 before getting on the board against the Buffaloes. West Greene shut down the Blue Devils’ passing attack and never allowed them to rush for yardage on the outside.
JCHS’ head coach Don Kerley is well aware of the Blue Devils.
“They have a pretty good football team and have played well after those first two games they lost,” said Kerley. “They won five straight before losing to West Greene. They have a wide receiver that is pretty impressive and their running back hits the hole hard and has good speed. Their quarterback is a freshman and throws it pretty well but isn’t as mobile. Their strength is in their receiving core. Strother and Podvin are weapons and could play for anybody. So could Lewis, their running back.
Kerley was referring to sophomore running back Kody Lewis who had several nice runs against West Greene. The Buffs intercepted freshman Brock Thompson three times.
The Devils are 5-2 since he took over the starting job after their second game. Kerley said his team needs to play well.
“The key for us is to take care of the football and not turn it over. We’ve had a lot of balance on both sides of the football. It’s hard to key on one or two players because so many are stepping up and making big plays. We’ll need that type of effort from them against Unicoi.”