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Unicoi County a must-win for Longhorns

JC’s Stacy Greer hopes to be all smiles if his team beats Unicoi County on Friday, and West Greene can knock off Chuckey-Doak. Photo by Joey Icenhour.

By Tim Chambers
Sports Editor

Johnson County will find themselves in the fight of their lives on Friday night at Unicoi County. The old cliché must-win game can sometimes be overused, but Friday’s game is a must-win for Johnson County for several reasons.The Longhorns are going to the playoffs, either as the first place or fourth-place team and there in between. Both teams enter the game with a 4-4 overall record. Here are the factors.

A Longhorns win over the Blue Devils and a West Greene win over Chuckey-Doak would allow the Horns to host a first-round playoff game as the top seed. If they lose to Unicoi, they travel to Alcoa as the fourth seed to play the state’s No. 1 team in Class 3A Alcoa, which wouldn’t be pretty. The most likely scenario will be if the Horns win and Gatlinburg-Pittman wins, they’ll play at G-P. G-P is ranked No. 9 in the state plays Kingston ranked No. 10 on Friday. If Kingston wins and the Horns win, Johnson County will travel to Kingston some 60 miles plus past the Gatlinburg exit on I40. If Johnson County wins, they’ll share the conference championship with No. 8 Claiborne County, whom they defeated and C-D. 

It’s been an up and down year for the Blue Devils just like it has been for the Horns. They were defeated last week 43-21 by the Black Knights, the same team that knocked off Johnson County on the last play of the game due to a clock malfunction. Chuckey-Doak has a couple of COVID 1-0 wins on their schedule, but their most important victory is the tiebreaking one over Johnson County.The Blue Devils are a capable team. They had the ball five times inside the Red Zone against Doak but came away with no points. 

The Blue Devils don’t have the elite back like they did last year, but Nehemiah Edwards has played well as of late. He had a 31-yard touchdown run on Friday and another from four yards outs. He finished with game with 70 yards on 11 carries. 

The Blue Devils used a two-man quarterback system against Unicoi County.Brock Thompson, who started before being injured, completed 13-of-22 passes for 63 yards while Bryson Peterson was 6-of-10 for 69 yards.  Johnson County hit their fair share of big plays in their win over Cloudland. Ethan Bower caught three touchdown passes from freshman Connor Simcox and returned an interception for another 50 yard TD. The secondary should get plenty of opportunities for picks against the pass-happy Blue Devils. The Horns should have back a healthy Stacy Greer and Dalton Brown, which should add to the depth and speed on the offensive side. 

Unicoi County beat Sullivan East 29-12, a team that spanked the Horns 20-6 but lost to Claiborne County 48-7 at a team that the Horns shocked 40-27 just a few weeks ago. Those things won’t mean a thing on Friday. It’s all about who comes out on top and who wants to avoid a first-round matchup with Alcoa. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm inside the newly renovated Gentry Stadium in downtown Erwin.