Jr. 'Horns have potential to be solid football team

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- You would think that losing a lot of your star players to the area high school might upset Johnson County Junior High coach Delza Noble.
   Nah. He doesn't mind.
   "That's what we try to get them to do," Noble said when asked about losing players like Nathan Paisley, Thomas Moore and Jeff Brinker to coach Mike Atwood. "Several of them are playing and doing good."
   Noble does have some players to replace from a team that advanced all the way to the Little Watauga championship game last season, but he has some talent returning from that squad.
   A key injury may hinder the Junior Longhorns in the early going. Matt Story was scheduled to be the starting quarterback, but he is out with a broken arm.
   "He's a super kid," Noble said. "He would have made a great quarterback."
   Steve Leonard has been moved to quarterback. Noble hopes he will come around quick.
   "He's a good athlete, but he doesn't know a lot about the quarterback position," Noble said. "We're trying to teach him a quick version of it."
   The Longhorns may have lost a key player in the preseason, but they've also gained one. T.A. Dugger transfer Justin Harmon will be the starting tailback.
   "He's a good tailback," Noble said. "He played on the seventh-grade team at T.A. Dugger last year. We're hoping he will do real good."
   Receiver Robbie Moody also brings a smile to Noble's face.
   "He's got a good set of hands for his age," Noble said.
   Jesse Gilbert, Josh Payne and Anthony Yoggerst are returning starters on the offensive line.
   Also in the mix on the line are Nick Reece, Ryan Humphrey and Joby Norris.
   "We're trying to get them going in the right direction," Noble said.
   A lot of the same kids that play offense will also see time on the defensive side of the ball.
   Gilbert, Payne and Yoggerst will all be on the defensive line for Coach Noble.
   Zack Roark and Jesse Atwood are the outside linebackers. Harmon and Humphrey are the middle linebackers.
   Billy Bryant and Chris Cappell will be defensive backs. Moody is the free safety.
   Matching last season's success is going to take hard work, but Noble sees it happening if his team can stay injury free.
   "We're hoping to do well," Noble said. "They're good kids, and we have the capability if we can just keep them healthy."
   Noble thinks this team will be one that should improve as the season goes on.
   "We might be sluggish early on, but we hope to be all right by the third game," Noble said.