Longhorns take aim on Central

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   BLOUNTVILLE -- With both Sullivan Central and Johnson County coming off defeats in their non-conference openers last Friday night, the Cougars and the Longhorns will most likely take their frustrations out on each other Friday night at the Cougar Den.
   Both teams will attempt to put last week out of their minds tomorrow evening, and will try to jump out in front with about three other teams in the Mountain Lakes title race.
   Kickoff is at the usual 7:30 start time.
   The Cougars lost 17-14 to Cherokee Friday night on a late field goal by Matt Ringley. The Longhorns lost to 2A South Greene 27-14 at Paul H. McEwen Stadium.
   "I expect it to be a tough game," Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood said. "Both of us were disappointed with our losses, so I expect it to be a hard-fought game."
   Atwood hopes to get the Longhorn offense going this week. Johnson County did a fair job running the football, but completed only four passes in 14 attempts and had a costly fumble.
   There was also a dropped pass in the first quarter that could have been six points.
   "We have to limit our mistakes," Atwood said. "Two mistakes cost us, and we had to play catch-up the rest of the night."
   The Longhorn coaching staff is counting on a healthy Jonah Dunn, who is still trying to get up to full speed after suffering a knee injury last October.
   Dunn only received nine carries last week, but scored on one of them. Atwood thinks he will get a whole lot more carries against the Cougars.
   "He will probably get most of the carries," Atwood said. "We couldn't run Jonah much, but we were in a situation where we had to throw. We wanted to run it, but we had to get back into the game."
   The Longhorns were also without the services of wide receiver Junior Paisley last week. Paisley twisted his knee in practice last Wednesday, but is expected to be back in action on Friday.
   The Johnson County defense looked good at times against South Greene, but the Longhorns were hurt deeply on third and fourth down conversions.
   Johnson County's defense also had to contain South Greene several times Friday night with the Rebels starting out in Longhorn territory.
   The major bright spot for the Longhorn defense last week was defensive end Justin Bishop. Bishop solidified his position as an All-State candidate with 20 tackles.
   Atwood hopes the rest of the defense will step up Friday night.
   "We've worked on defense," Atwood said. "We can't give up 27 points. We hope to have better defense this week, but you can't expect too much when the other team is starting on your side of the field."
   The Cougars come in as a very talented bunch with a healthy quarterback named John LeSueur. In last season's 7-6 thriller won by the Longhorns, LeSueur missed that contest with an injury.
   Last week against Cherokee, LeSueur rushed 15 times for 88 yards.
   Atwood knows that LeSueur, who is entering his third year as the starter, will be ready to make up for lost time.
   "We're looking to contain him," Atwood said. "He can run it or pass it. We're hoping he won't beat us. We're hoping to make him throw. We would rather him throw it than run it."
   And in a rare occurrence, the Cougars will be bigger than Johnson County on the offensive and defensive lines. This has Atwood worried just a little bit.
   "The offensive and defensive lines are big concerns," Atwood said. "This is one team that has a pretty big advantage. Other than them not too many teams have an advantage on us."
   It should be two fired up teams Friday night. The winner of this game should be in good position to fight for a playoff berth.
   As for the Longhorns, they were disappointed that South Greene continued its winning ways over the boys from Mountain City, but they are ready to put the contest behind them.
   "We were definitely disappointed about South Greene," Atwood said. "But they're a mature bunch. Our main goal is to make the playoffs. We're disappointed, but we're still pretty up. They feel good about their chances."