Longhorns beat Blue Devils in overtime, 6-0

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY--The Johnson County Longhorn defense has played well enough to win football games all season long.
   On Friday night, Matt Dunn made sure the win finally happened.
   A key sack and fumble recovery by Dunn sealed a 6-0 overtime win for the Longhorns over the Unicoi County Blue Devils at Paul H. McEwen Stadium in a game that is sure to go down as a classic.
   The win was Johnson County's first of the season, as the Longhorns improve to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in Mountain Lakes play.
   "We feel like we kind of got the monkey off our back tonight," Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood said. "Unicoi played awful good. It's a shame somebody had to lose that game, but I'm glad it was them instead of us."
   The Longhorns definitely earned it.
   With the Longhorns up 6-0 in the overtime, Unicoi had four downs at Longhorn 10-yard line to try and win the game. But on the first play of the drive, quarterback Thomas Evely was sacked by Dunn.
   On the play, Evely fumbled and Dunn recovered to give the Longhorns the win.
   "I just stepped up, and we needed to win that game," Dunn said. "I wasn't going to lose."
   Atwood wasn't surprised Dunn came up with the big play.
   "That boy is just a tough kid," Atwood said. "At 260 pounds you wouldn't think he's that quick, but he moves quick. They weren't going to run it his way, and he meant it."
   Dunn may have made the game-clinching play, but it was Aaron Payne that put the Longhorns in position to win.
   After the Longhorns started the overtime, a 4-yard run by Adam Johnson put Johnson County at the Unicoi six.
   Then it was up to Payne.
   Payne found an opening, and bulldozed his way into the end zone on the next play to score the only touchdown of the night.
   Payne, who finished the night with 103 yards on 12 carries, gave all the credit to his teammates for doing a great job blocking.
   "I prayed right before I did it," Payne said. "I don't know what happened. I had great blocking. I just followed my great blockers. That's all it was, just great blocking."
   Atwood was proud of Payne for the touchdown, and said that the score sort of avenged a mistake by Payne just a few minutes earlier.
   "They flow to the football so hard," Atwood said. "We felt like we could counter back on them, especially down there on the goal line. And Aaron just runs the ball hard.
   "Now he needed to make a big play, because he made a clipping penalty that hurt us. I'm glad he got it. He felt bad, and I'm glad he got the score."
   Payne thought in this hard-fought contest, it came down to who had the most heart and the most guts.
   "We told ourselves right before that last play that it was all about heart and guts," Payne said. "Mostly guts. We had to get guts before that play."
   It was a total team effort for the Longhorns. One guy who sacrificed for the team this week was Johnson.
   Johnson, who has been the Longhorn quarterback the last two seasons, was moved to tailback this week. All he did was rush for 135 yards on 33 carries.
   "It's just an opportunity that I have to take advantage of," Johnson said. "I've got to do what I can for the team. As long as we work together as a team, I'll do what I can.
   Due to some injuries, Atwood thought Johnson's move to tailback was necessary.
   "Jonah Dunn and Daniel Cranford are both hurt," Atwood said. "We didn't feel like we were getting very good production out of our tailbacks, and they were both beat up. Adam ran the ball from quarterback a lot anyway. And he agreed to move, so we thought we would give it a try. It worked out pretty good."
   Poteet moved to quarterback this week, and deserves credit for changing positions as well. Poteet didn't complete a pass, but he showed great leadership for the 'Horns.
   "All the pressure was on Jason, that's for sure," Atwood said. "He hadn't taken a snap in practice until this week. We were set on our quarterback, and he hadn't taken a snap. But with injuries and stuff we had to move some people around, and try to get the best athletes the ball whenever we had a chance to."
   The Longhorns moved the football better Friday night. Johnson County had 252 yards of total offense compared to Unicoi's 144, but the Longhorns could only get on the scoreboard once.
   The Longhorns looked like they were going to score with about 4:30 to go in the fourth quarter, but a fumble at the Unicoi 22 that was recovered by the Blue Devils negated that.
   "We can't score," Atwood said. "I don't know what's a matter with us. We get the ball inside the 20, and we just lose our minds I guess. We're going to have to work on that.
   "We played the whole fourth quarter on their side of the field, there's no reason we shouldn't score any points. But those boys deserve to win. I'm glad they got one. Maybe we can get on a roll."
   Penalties also hurt Johnson County Friday night. The Longhorns were flagged 13 times for a total of 95 yards.
   "Mental mistakes are killing us," Atwood said. "We've got to learn how to block without holding or clipping every play. The delay of games, I'll take the blame for that. With a new quarterback in, everything didn't run so smooth. I'll take the blame for those."
   The Unicoi charge was led by Thomas Britt. He had 51 yards on eight carries.
   Payne had nine tackles to lead the Longhorns, while Justin Bishop and Adam Leonard both had eight tackles.
   The Longhorns lost two heartbreakers to Sullivan Central and Hampton coming in, so Dunn felt relieved to get the win.
   "It was very difficult, this heartbreaking stuff," Dunn said. "We got tired of losing, so we decided to step up and win us one."
   LONGHORN NOTES:
   * Bishop came up with two big turnovers for the Longhorns. In addition to a fumble recovery, Bishop picked off an Evely pass in the fourth quarter that ended up being huge for Johnson County.
   * Unicoi County quarterback Josh Hensley was injured right before halftime. He had to be taken to the hospital by the Johnson County Rescue Squad.