Jr. 'Horns slip past Cloudland

By Wes Holtsclaw

   What plagued the Cloudland Junior Highlanders ended up being Johnson County's bread and butter Thursday night on Orr Field.
   The Junior 'Landers missed three crucial passes towards the end zone throughout a scoreless effort, with a costly fumble setting Johnson County up inside Cloudland territory in the fourth quarter.
   The Junior 'Horns took advantage of a 29-yard pass from Austin Phipps to Ronnie Roark, setting up a 12-yard touchdown pass to Joe Greer late in the fourth quarter for a 6-0 victory in a real Little Watauga slobberknocker.
   "We were sluggish," said Johnson County head coach Delza Noble. "We made a lot of mistakes, bad mistakes, but we're going to correct them next week."
   "We were slow in the first half, but we came alive in the second half and got them going," he said. "The only reason Cloudland lost is because their receivers dropped the ball. They could've easily beat us. We were beat actually, but his kid dropped the ball."
   Both teams had a pair of fumbles in the game, but a late fumble in the fourth from Cloudland turned to be the deciding factor, setting up the touchdown pass that Cloudland defensive back Justin Kodak deflected into the hands of Greer.
   "They had the smallest kid playing defensive back and we thought we could sneak Joe around," Noble said. "He was tall enough to catch it, but Austin threw it in (Kodak's) hands and he coughed it up and we were lucky to catch it. It was a luck play."
   Cloudland ran the ball more consistently than Johnson County with over 80 yards on the ground, led by Michael Lunsford's 50. It was Phipps' air attack that evened things up for the 'Horns throughout the game.
   "I'm tickled with my defense, they played extremely well," said Cloudland coach Robbie Turbyfill. "The touchdown pass they got, Justin Kodak did a good job on the coverage, he just batted it up and that's the way it falls."
   "I don't think we got beat on the dropped balls, we got beat on not hitting the holes hard," he said. "If we hit the holes hard, we'll be fine. We dropped a couple of touchdowns, but barring that, we didn't hit the holes hard one through four quarters."
   It's a sign of improvement for Cloudland, which finished the past two seasons with a 2-6 record.
   "Johnson County's got a great team. In the years I've been here I think this is the closest we've played them," Turbyfill said. "I've been here five years and it's usually been a blow out."
   Johnson County faces Happy Valley next Tuesday, while Cloudland travels to Blountville Middle for a Monday night war.