Longhorns get by stubborn Patriots

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   MOUNTAIN CITY-- Like a happy meal does a hungry man, Johnson County's performance Friday night provided just enough satisfaction for Longhorn head coach Mike Atwood.
   "We played good enough to win," Atwood said after the Longhorns' 14-6 victory over the Sullivan East Patriots at Paul H. McEwen Stadium. "That's all we're looking for right now. We didn't play very good. We've got a lot of things to work on in practice."
   While Atwood wasn't extremely happy with the game, Sullivan East head coach Jon White was fairly pleased with how his winless team played Friday night.
   "Whoever said there were no moral victories have never been in our shoes," White said. "Our backs have been against the wall. We have all juniors now. We're learning to play right now. We're coming together. And that's a good football team. Mike and Austin do a great job up here. But I'm proud of them, and I'm glad that they're willing to get better.
   It was a sharp improvement for the Patriots from their disappointing 64-21 loss to Elizabethton last week. The East offense finished with 206 yards of total offense, and recorded 11 first downs. The Patriots played respectable on defense, allowing 276 total yards.
   But when the big plays had to be made, Johnson County stepped to the fore.
   The first one was made by defensive tackle Tolby Lowe. He came up with a key fumble recovery midway through the first quarter when East was inside the Longhorn 10.
   That set up a huge 50-yard quarterback sneak by Johnson County quarterback Adam Johnson to put the Longhorns in scoring range. A few plays later, Jonah Dunn raced into the end zone from five yards out to give the Longhorns a 7-0 lead.
   The Patriots answered on their next possession with a 13-play drive, which was capped off by a Justin Horton four-yard touchdown run to cut the Longhorn advantage to 7-6 with 7:18 to go in the first half. The extra point attempt failed.
   From there the Longhorn defense made just enough plays to keep the Patriots at bay. Atwood wasn't thrilled with how the defense played, but knows there was a reason.
   "The defense disappointed me," Atwood said. "But Sullivan East has a good ball team. They came up here and played hard, they probably were as hard to handle on the line of scrimmage as anybody we've played.
   Said Lowe: We didn't come out as fired up as we usually do and it showed."
   One player that seemed very fired up was Johnson County tailback Jonah Dunn. With the Longhorns needing a key scoring drive in the second half, Dunn became a key cog in the offense.
   After several key runs by the sophomore put the Longhorns in scoring position, Dunn scored his second touchdown of the night with 10:13 to go in the game. He hit paydirt from three yards out to increase Johnson County's lead to 14-6 with 10:13 to go in the game.
   Dunn finished the night with 100 yards on 26 carries for his second straight spectacular performance.
   "Jonah really played good," Atwood said. "We got on him a little bit at halftime and he stepped up and played real good in the second half. He ran the ball good and held on to it. I was proud of him."
   East did have one last drive left in them. Propelled by a 17-yard run by Horton, the Patriots eventually advanced all the way to the Longhorn 24. But then Michael Reid intercepted a Justin Trivette pass to seal the deal for the Longhorns.
   Reid played solid all-around for the Longhorns. In addition to coming up with the key interception, he also caught two passes for 25 yards, and gained 15 yards on his lone rushing attempt.
   "Michael played really good," Atwood said. "That interception really saved us."
   Reid had been waiting for this moment to arrive.
   "It was my first interception of the year," Reid said. "I was pleased I finally got one. Coach has been on me all year to get an interception, and I finally got one.
   Despite his interception at the end of the contest, Trivette played a very good game for the Patriots. He rushed 13 times for 51 yards, and went 7-of-10 for 60 yards passing.
   "He's a hustler," White said. "He's done a great job."
   For the second straight week, Johnson County had three players finish with 10 or more tackles. Justin Bishop led the way with 11, while Wes Hamby and Lowe both had 10. Clayton Potter topped East with 10 tackles, also.
   The road now gets a little tougher for Johnson County. The Longhorns still have an outside shot at winning the conference title, but they will be playing their most difficult competition of the season the next three weeks. Elizabethton, Tennessee High and Sullivan South now await the boys from Mountain City.
   Up next is a showdown with the Cyclones. The Longhorns actually enter this contest with a better conference record. Johnson County is 3-1 in the Big Eight and 4-3 overall, while the Cyclones sit at 2-2 in the league and 3-4 overall.
   Atwood knows the Longhorns will have to bring their best game to Dave Rider Field if they are going to come away with a victory.
   "If we don't play better than this we're going to be in trouble," Atwood said. "But we're looking forward to the challenge. Our boys are kind of excited about it. We're looking forward to playing some of the best teams in the league."
   The challenge of playing Elizabethton is also welcomed by Lowe.
   "They're a pretty good team," Lowe said. "But I've always dreamed of playing them since I was a freshman. I think we can beat them, I really do."
   LONGHORN NOTES:
  
deg. Members of the Longhorn special teams unit played very well in this contest, including sophomore Jeremy Cornett. He recovered a shocking onside kick after Dunn's first touchdown.
   deg. Johnson County place kicker Adam Leonard converted both of his extra point attempts Friday night. Leonard has now made his last seven extra point tries.