Jr. Rangers best Baby Longhorns

Photo by Dave Boyd
Unaka's Mickey Campbell picks up a tough gain.

By Michelle Pope
MOUNTAIN CITY -- The Unaka Jr. Rangers beat the Johnson County Jr. Longhorns 30-22 Thursday evening in a tangle during which Unaka held the lead from the first quarter.
However, Johnson County's offense gave the Jr. Rangers a run for their money in the final minutes of the game, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Jeff Wilson scored the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter for Unaka with a ten-yard rush after he and Mickey Campbell alternately drove the Jr. Rangers down the field on rushes. Unaka opted for a two-point conversion, but the run failed.
Johnson County started strongly on their first possession, with quarterback Austin Phipps connecting on two passes, a ten-yarder to Tyler Leonard and a fifteen-yard pass to Josh Dowell. In conjunction with eight yards worth of carries by Brian Dollar, and twenty from Leonard, Johnson County was in scoring position, but lost the opportunity to a fumble that was recovered by Unaka.
Mickey Campbell and Jeff Wilson began slowly but surely pushing the Jr. Rangers toward a score, and they cashed in when Wilson broke away for an amazing 76-yard touchdown run. Campbell made the carry for two points, and Unaka grasped the lead at 14-0.
"I think Unaka played really good," said Johnson County coach Delza Noble. "We played good offensively, but they just powered us."
Not to be outdone, the Jr. Longhorns had been patiently awaiting their turn. After a hefty return from Christian Prudhomme, Johnson County was back in the game. Almost immediately after possession turned over to Johnson County, Tyler Leonard retaliated with a fifty-yard rush, and the Jr. Longhorns had a full set of downs with the end zone looming only five yards away.
Phipps kept the ball and rushed the last yard, scoring a touchdown for the Jr. Longhorns. The conversion pass missed its mark, but Johnson County had put six points up next to Unaka's 14 in time for halftime.
"They're always a well-coached team," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson. "I knew Coach Noble would have them ready to play, so we knew we had to play real well. They handled us pretty good at our place."
The next score was by Unaka. With the help of a 16-yard carry by Wilson and a 12-yard rush from Campbell, Wilson made a 5-yard touchdown carry. Again, Campbell scored two more points for the Jr. Rangers on the conversion.
Johnson County's offense stepped in to save the night again. Leonard made three carries for thirty yards, and Brian Dollar had a 23-yard rush. The Jr. Longhorns once again quickly moved down the field and had made camp one yard from the end zone when the third quarter ended.
Leonard dealt with that yard on the following play, scoring another touchdown for Johnson County. Phipps' pass for two points found Joe Greer, and the Jr. Longhorns pulled close to Unaka's score again, with fourteen to their twenty-two.
The last quarter yielded potentially detrimental injuries for both teams, with Tyler Leonard sitting out briefly with a back cramp, and Unaka's quarterback, Dustin Carden, sitting out with an injury.
However, the injuries did not seem to set either team back at all. Unaka used Wilson and Campbell to drive down the field until Campbell was able to make a four-yard touchdown run. Campbell carried the ball again on the conversion, scoring two extra points for Unaka and bringing them to thirty.
Johnson County received possession of the ball with less than a minute on the clock. Christian Prudhomme returned Wilson's punt for 22 yards, and Phipps' third pass attempt found a mark with Leonard for thirty yards. Johnson County's offense in the fourth quarter consisted entirely of passes. Again, Phipps hit Leonard with a fifteen-yard pass, and the Jr. Longhorns made first and goal.
Phipps threw a four-yard pass that landed in the hands of Ronnie Roark for a score with less than 20 seconds on the clock. The Jr. Longhorns tried for two points, and another Phipps-to-Roark pass sealed the deal, settling the score at 30-22 in Unaka's favor.
Chris Pierce, who stepped in as backup quarterback for Unaka ran the clock out, and the Jr. Rangers took the win.
"We played real well tonight," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson. "We knew we had to play a good game. We have a lot of respect for Johnson County."
Coach Noble was proud of his offense, but was disappointed that they couldn't defensively stop Unaka. "They had that number five (Jeff Wilson) and forty-three (Mickey Campbell). They just ran the ball so hard that we couldn't stop them. We stuffed everybody inside and they just ran over us. Coach Wilson did a good job. He killed us. We could score, but we never could stop him from scoring."
"Offensively, I think we did good. We executed good, but defensively...they had two or three seventy or eighty yard drives, and we just couldn't stop them."