By Tim Chambers
Ringo Starr’s 1971 classic song, “It don’t come easy” might be the perfect title tune for Johnson County’s football team. The song says you got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues and the Longhorns have definitely done that.
Last year they were singing the blues after losing to Sullivan East, Hampton and Elizabethton in their first three games but things began to look up.
They crushed Chuckey-Doak and West Greene by lopsided margins after getting their first win against Sullivan Central.
They squeezed out a road win at Northview Academy and appeared headed for a home playoff game but it simply wasn’t meant to be.
They lost to Pigeon Forge 21-7 at home in week nine and then at Unicoi County 28-14 in week 10 and missed out on making the playoffs.
This year the stakes are much higher.
It all starts next Friday if the Longhorns can put away a weak North Greene team and run their season record to 8-0.
Cloudland will bring a strong running game into Mountain City on October 20 and a No. 9 ranking in Class 1A or maybe higher. The Highlanders are expected to run roughshod over Jellico this week before facing the Horns.
But the Cloudland game will also bring Unicoi to town a week early.
The Blue Devils will be here to scout the Longhorns because they have bye week. That gives them two weeks to prepare for No. 3 Horns and they would love nothing better than to come in here and pull off an upset.
Unicoi County proved to be the better team last year and is confident they can do it again in 2017. The Blue Devils have reeled off four straight wins after starting the season 1-3. They host West Greene at home on Friday.
It would be easy for the Longhorns to be looking toward week 10, but the current squad needs to shore up some weaknesses before the Blue Devils come to town.
Cloudland has a good enough running game to come in here and control the football. They also have that tough-as-nails mentality.
Johnson County needs to come in with an attitude – one that says “we’re not letting you spoil our landmark season.”
Yet they need to fix some stuff to prevent that from happening.
Their offense sputtered at Happy Valley and quarterback Nathan Arnold spent most of the night running from Happy Valley’s front line. The Longhorns rushed for a season low 26 yards and threw for only 70.
That won’t get you very far against the teams in Region 2A. It needs to be fixed in a hurry before the Cloudland and Unicoi County games.
Like Happy Valley, they have coaches that will expose your weaknesses.
Top ranked Alcoa and No. 4 Austin East are tied for first place with 3-0 records. No. 9 Kingston is favored to nail down the No. 3 spot but have yet to play Alcoa, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg-Pittman.
The fourth place spot appears to be up for grabs.
Northview Academy knocked off Pigeon Forge 28-20 on Friday to get back into the playoff hunt. Scott Hill’s only win came against G-P who defeated Northview Academy 35-14.
The Longhorns will avoid Alcoa and Austin East in the first round of the playoffs but could play any of the remaining others.
Cloudland and Unicoi County are good but Kingston, Pigeon Forge and Northview Academy are better. Gatlinburg-Pittman is a good football team but is likely to be the odd man out along with Scott Hill.
Three football teams that could be a contender in Region 1 3A will miss out making the playoffs.
The Longhorns aren’t in the boat like last year.
There is however a lot of football left to be played. There’s still time to shore up a lot of our weaknesses.
A perfect 7-0 record does not mean perfection.
It all starts this week leading up to the Cloudland and Unicoi County games.
In the words of Ringo Starr, “It don’t come easy. “