JCHS athletics priming for strong season

MOUNTAIN CITY -- If you thought the television show "Fear Factor" was scary, you might want to watch out for the Johnson County High School athletic programs during the 2002-2003 sports season.
   After watching the Johnson County athletic teams this past season, I thought most of them showed a lot of promise. Most of the teams were young, meaning that they were only going to get better the next year.
   Well, next year is almost here. And I believe next year is shaping up to be a banner season in Mountain City.
   It should be a very exciting season for the football team. The Longhorns will have almost 20 seniors on their squad, making for an experienced group.
   Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood and his staff have done a fabulous job of rebuilding the program. After struggling to win a game when Atwood first took over, The Longhorns have been to the playoffs the last three years.
   The Longhorns look poised to make it four in a row. There are some graduation losses, but overall the outlook is bright.
   Players like Justin Bishop, Adam Johnson, Adam Leonard, Tommy Short and Junior Paisley should lead the 'Horns to greater heights this fall.
   Johnson County fans should have a lot to cheer about during the winter, as the Longhorn boys basketball team should be vastly improved.
   With a more experienced squad, coupled with graduation losses by other schools, look for Austin Atwood's team to go up in the Watauga Conference standings.
   The Longhorns have one of Northeast Tennessee's premier players in Matt Cornett. Cornett led the Watauga Conference with 23 points-per-game in 2001-2002, and should battle with Elizabethton's Vince Redd for league MVP honors.
   In addition to being a standout on the football field, Short can also fill it up on the basketball court. Point guard Judd Shoun was one of the most promising sophomores in the area last season, and his development will be key to the 'Horns' success.
   The 'Horns did lack depth last season, but that shouldn't be as big of a problem this year.
   There's also renewed hope for the Lady Longhorns basketball team with pure shooter Andrea McQueen back.
   McQueen was a first team All-Carter/Johnson selection last season, and should have an even better campaign next year.
   Point guard Courtney Shaw returns, and will most likely continue playing the same tenacious defense she displayed last season.
   The future looks very bright for head coach Eric Crabtree and the Lady Longhorns. The junior high team was very successful last season, and those players should make an impact soon.
   The Johnson County baseball team will bring a lot of players back, including ace pitcher Jon Arnold.
   Arnold did a great job replacing All-state pitcher Chris Gambill as the No. 1 starter, and he should be even stronger next season.
   The Longhorns have heavy hitters like Reid, Johnson and Leonard back, so it could be a fine year for them.
   The Johnson County softball team improved throughout this season, and nearly beat Happy Valley in the first round of the District Tournament. The Warriors went on to advance to the sub-state.
   The Lady 'Horns' Laura Peters became a force on the mound this season, and should help to lead the team to greater heights next year.
   In tennis, Adam Cornett should be a threat to make it to the Spring Fling. Cornett is arguably one of the best players in the history of the school.
   Cornett just missed going back to the Region 1-A/AA Tournament this season, so you can bet that he will be hungry in 2003.
   Longhorn athletics look to be in good shape, but I believe there is one young man that has a great chance to bring home a state title in 2003.
   Matt Cornett recently finished in a tie for third in the Class A/AA state high jump. Cornett cleared 6-2, and the winner cleared 6-4.
   The feat is phenomenal considering that Cornett's practice is limited due to the school not having a high jump pit.
   Cornett has one more year, and he should only get better.
   On paper, he has the best chance to win the state from Johnson County, but you never know. One thing I've noticed about Longhorn athletes is that they believe in themselves.
   These athletes think they are going to win every time they step out on to the athletic field. Losing is not an option.
   And during the 2002-2003 season, it looks like the Longhorns won't lose much.