By Tim Chambers
How do you prepare for a team that has won 18 state championships and five straight defeated Dobyns-Bennett last week if you’re a 3A Johnson County football team? You don’t. The Longhorns roller coaster football season will come to an end on Friday night at Alcoa (9-2), the state’s No. 1 ranked football team in Class 3A. Their only loss was 14-9 to the top-ranked team in Class 6 A Maryville, who is also favored to win another state championship.
Johnson County’s 24-20 loss at Unicoi County on Friday night was costly. They held true to form to win one week and lose the next has been ongoing since week one.The Longhorns could have earned a share of the conference championship had they won but didn’t. Their reward is a trip that all Class 3A teams never want to make.
“You prefer to play a team like Alcoa in the third round, but everything goes through them,” said Johnson County’s head coach Don Kerley. “They are the elite program statewide. Our kids will see a lot of players who will go on to play college football. We will try and play our hardest and see what happens. The kids have played hard all year under some hard circumstances.”
The rollercoaster season started with a loss a Sullivan East. The Horns had only one week of practice with its entire roster before playing their first game due to COVID.
“That hurt, but injuries have been the biggest thing for us to overcome,” said Kerley. “We got banged up late in the year, and it killed us. Our kids will play hard at Alcoa, but we all know they are the superior team. We’ll see what happens.”
Kerley was the quarterback on the 1988 team that nearly upset Alcoa in the playoffs. He and Assistant coaches Tom Kerley and Bo Henson were defeated 15-9 in a close contest but didn’t expect it this time around. Key players Stacy Greer and Dalton Brown are questionable for this week’s game.Both Greer and Brown have said they will each try to play.
The Horns will be faced with trying to keep Alcoa’s offense off the field. That will be a hard task against a team that has recorded five shutouts this year. Kickoff for all playoff games begins at 7:00 pm. Fans are urged to call the host school and inquire about any restrictions before entering the stadium. Some places are requiring mask to be worn before entering the stadium.