Jr. Longhorns avenge loss to HV

Photo by Rick Harris
Johnson Countyƕs Christian Prudhomme goes up to catch a two-point conversion.

By Michelle Pope
With a game that was powered by running back Tyler Leonard, the Johnson County Jr. High Longhorns (3-2) redeemed themselves against Happy Valley (1-5) Tuesday afternoon.
Recovering from an 8-0 previous loss to the Jr. Warriors, Johnson County 'put its thing down, flipped it, and reversed it' with a 28-8 win.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Coach [Delza] Noble," Happy Valley's coach Alex Payne said. "They've improved a whole lot as the season's gone on, doing a lot better than they were at the start of the year, and I have to credit him with that. We knew he was improving."
Johnson County dominated the first half of the game, scoring three touchdowns in the first two quarters.
Leonard, who tallied more than 140 rushing yards in the game, rushed the ball for the first touchdown, scoring from 30 yards out. In the second quarter, Leonard amazingly shook off two defenders in the backfield and raced for a 50-yard scoring run.
"I was pleased with the way we played," said Johnson County head coach Delza Noble. "We've been running sluggish all year and we hadn't scored many points, but we scored 28 today."
Johnson County went for a two-point conversion, and scored the points when Christian Prudhomme caught an end zone pass from quarterback Austin Phipps.
Although the Junior Warriors didn't make any touchdowns in the first half, Jesse Richardson and Garrett Dykes kept Happy Valley's offense on the move, rushing the ball for over 20 yards between them.
"Our kids came out kind of flat. They've had a tough season," Payne said. "I'm a little disappointed that they didn't show a little more effort to start with, but I think they'll rebound. They'll just keep their heads up and try to get better."
The driving force behind Happy Valley's offense was quarterback Tyler Blevins. He passed for over 65 yards to main receivers Jordan Oliver and Caleb Johnson. Oliver caught 4 passes for 51 yards against Johnson County.
"Alex [Payne] has done a great job," Noble said of Happy Valley's team. "Those kids were not as strong as they have been but they're still organized and they did a good job. We were lucky to get 28 points against them."
In the third quarter, Happy Valley took advantage of a scoring opportunity when Richardson took a handoff from Blevins and completed a 20-yard pass to Caleb Johnson, who ran the ball 11 more yards for a touchdown.
Happy Valley tried to keep the ball moving in the fourth quarter, and nearly succeeded with several completed passes Blevins made to Oliver. However, Johnson County retaliated when Ronnie Roark made an interception, and Brian Dollar ran the ball seven yards for Johnson County's final touchdown, bringing the score to 28-8.
Payne wasn't discouraged by the loss.
"We're just going to keep hanging in there, trying to teach them all the fundamentals," he said. "I realize that our record's not very good right now, but we've got to try to keep as many kids out as we can for high school, and teach them what they need to be doing for the future. That's what they're working for now."
"We actually lost to Happy Valley the first time we played them," Coach Noble said. "They beat us 8 to nothing. That's why we wanted to try and win this one here, and get back in the race for the championship."
Noble's season outlook is optimistic.
"We've beat Unaka, and now we have to try to win the rest of our games and make the championship game," he said. "Hopefully we can. We may not, but we hope to."