'Horns take winless Patriots seriously

By Matt Hill
STAR Staff

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- For the first time this season, Johnson County will be a heavy favorite to win a football game when it plays Sullivan East Friday night at Paul H. McEwen Stadium.
   But when this was brought to the attention of Longhorn head coach Mike Atwood, it brought more disagreement than chili does to an upset stomach.
   "We're not the favorite," Atwood said. "We would rather be the underdog. Their quarterback and running backs scare us. We don't see ourselves as the favorite, but we feel like if we play well we have a chance to win."
   On paper, Johnson County does look like they're the team that's going to win. The Longhorns are still fighting for a playoff berth with their 3-3 overall record, and 2-1 conference mark, while the Patriots are still winless at 0-6 overall, and 0-3 in league play.
   The Longhorns are on an emotional high right now following their 34-14 victory over Daniel Boone last week. Atwood believes they won't suffer a letdown this week against East, 64-21 losers to Elizabethton last Friday night in Bluff City.
   "I don't think we'll have a letdown," Atwood said. "We know how important this is. We need this win to make the playoffs."
   Sullivan East head coach Jon White knows that getting his first win this year is not going to be easy.
   "Mike has done a great job," White said. "They're one of the better looking tackling teams we have seen. They don't give up. They're a good team."
   White was very high on the Longhorn defense, and he probably should be.
   Against the Trailblazers, Justin Bishop, Wes Hamby and Tolby Lowe all had 10 tackles. The Longhorns also held the Boone offense to less than 200 yards of total offense.
   "Wes Hamby, Matt Eggers and Tolby Lowe, along with Justin Bishop and Jesse Cranford played great," Atwood said. "Our defense has won every game for us except Friday, and we played well enough to win against Boone, they just didn't need as much help."
   This week, the Longhorn defense will have to stop quarterback Justin Trivette. He has stepped in and done a very admirable job for the injured J.R Candlish.
   "He's done a good job," White said about Trivette. "He's made very good decisions. I've been proud of him."
   Even though Candlish was considered one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Eight going into this year, Atwood is still worried about Trivette.
   "We feel like he's more of a threat to run," Atwood said. "We would probably rather face a passer than a runner. We feel like we're going to have a hard time stopping him."
   Atwood is also concerned about fullback Toby Fleenor, and a big offensive and defensive line.
   The Patriots are probably worried that the Longhorn offense is going to explode again. It was a breakout game for them Friday night, as they netted 382 yards of total offense.
   Sophomore tailback Jonah Dunn rushed for 97 yards on 15 carries, and scored three touchdowns. But Dunn wasn't the only major contributor in the Longhorn offense, as quarterback Adam Johnson rushed for 148 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns. He also threw for 110 yards en route to earning the Tri-Cities Nissan-Elizabethton Star player of the week award.
   It was a great performance for the two players, especially considering Johnson was still battling for the Longhorns' starting quarterback position at the first of the year, while Dunn has just recently emerged as Johnson County's starting tailback.
   "They stepped up," Atwood said. "We felt like Adam was going to play, we just didn't know where. And we knew Jonah was going to be a good running back, we just didn't know he was going to be a starter on the varsity."
   Atwood is hoping all his players can step up Friday night. If Johnson County defeats the Sullivan East, the Longhorns will be sitting at 3-1 in the Big Eight heading into season-ending showdowns with Elizabethton, Tennessee High and Sullivan South.
   A win would not only continue a conquering of conference games, but also home games. The Longhorns are undefeated at McEwen Stadium this season.
   "We really focus on our conference games," Atwood said. "I think we have an advantage playing here against teams who have never been to Mountain City before."