By Tim Chambers
Johnson County will open up the 2016 football season with three proven heavyweights in Sullivan East, Hampton and Elizabethton. Trying to knock off any of them will be like trying to carve up a cheap overdone steak with a dull butter knife.
It’s a difficult task at hand but it can be done with the right kind of pressure and precision. And doing so would almost assure the Longhorns their fourth consecutive berth into the playoffs.
JCHS will invade the “Patriot Pasture” on Thursday in a non-conference showdown with Sullivan East. Kickoff is slated to take place at 7:30 pm.
“They are a senior heavy team that went 8-2 last season with almost everyone back,” said JCHS’ head coach Don Kerley. “They’re picked to finish behind Greeneville in 4-A. East is definitely going to be a very good football team. They went to the playoffs last year in 4-A and I’m sure they will do that again this year.”
East has an abundance of weapons that begins at the quarterback position. Aaron Frye is a three-year starter who has led his team into two straight playoff appearances. He is surrounded by a standout supporting cast that includes senior wide receivers Gunner Griffith and Sam Arnold in addition to all purpose running backs Sam and Acie McCoy.
Matt Nixon will be the featured back after rushing for over 1000 yards last season. He accounted for 109 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown in last year’s 21-0 win at Johnson County.
The Patriots suffered a huge blow when Cole Green was lost for the season because of a torn ACL in a passing camp game at E&H. The tight end/defensive end was a two-time all conference selection but the Pats have some proven players ready to step in.
Seniors John Jones, Dylan Osborne, Dylan Parker and Owen Dupuis will anchor the offensive line that could be one of the best they’ve had in recent years.
Hunter Edes is back at tight end with his 6’4 and 225-pound frame. So is senior fullback Jake Crumley who can open up sizeable holes with his 207-pound frame.
The Longhorns will counter with some weapons of their own.
Nathan Arnold threw for over 1500 yards as a sophomore and will be under center again this year. Gage Hampton will be the workhorse in the backfield and Bud Icenhour will play on the edge more.
Shane Phillips, Jordan Edes-King and Logan Potter will man the receiver positions along with Icenhour and Hampton. All the above players are juniors and five of them started as sophomores.
“We’ve got some juniors that were thrown into the first last year,” said Kerley. “But they’ve all got to play like upperclassmen this year. We have to take care of the football and not turn it over. We have to execute on both sides of the ball and line up right defensively. You can’t miss tackles because their backs hit the holes hard. They don’t have trouble scoring if they get the edge.
Kerley is still undecided on some spots up front.
For the rest of the story pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.