Rebels best 'Horns

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- Charlie Daniels didn't lie when he said "The South's Going To Do It Again."
   The Sullivan South Rebels showed Thursday night that they're back as they defeated the Johnson County Longhorns 35-0 in Big Eight Conference football action at Paul H. McEwen Stadium.
   The Longhorns did receive a moral victory after the game when they found out that Elizabethton had defeated Unicoi County to secure Johnson County's spot in the TSSAA playoffs. The Longhorns will play at Morristown West next week, the champions of the Inter-Mountain Conference. Sullivan South improved to 7-3 with the win and will face Greeneville next Friday night.
   This night belonged to the boys from Colonial Heights. South rushed for 240 yards, and played stellar defense.
   Despite having the great night, Sullivan South head coach Pat Fraley still sees room for improvement.
   "Offensively, I'm not real pleased with how we played tonight, but we have to be happy about being 7-3," Fraley said. But we feel like we can play better than this."
   The Longhorns had their chances early on. Johnson County was inside the Rebel 20 when the Longhorns fumbled to give the ball back to South. The Rebels then used nice runs from big guns like Aaron Robinette and Russell Tritapoe to put them in scoring position.
   The Rebels closed the drive when Robinette rushed from two yards out to take a 7-0 lead.
   "We made some mistakes early in the game that cost us," Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood said.
   The Rebels took that 7-0 advantage into the second quarter when Johnson County was driving. On fourth and one from the Rebel 11-yard line, Atwood decided to go for it. On the play, Johnson County quarterback Adam Johnson sneaked it and appeared to have the first down. But when the measurement occurred, Johnson was ruled just short and the Longhorns never recovered.
   "I thought he got a little further than what the mark was," Atwood said. "It looked like a bad spot to me."
   The Rebels never looked back after that, and scored three touchdowns in the second quarter. Propelled by a 43-yard run from Aaron Grills, the Rebels hit paydirt on their next possession when Robinette scored his second touchdown of the night. His 1-yard touchdown run gave South a 14-0 edge.
   After a blocked punt put South at the 5-yard line, Tritapoe took the ball into the end zone from that spot to make it a 21-0 game with 5:54 left in the half.
   The Longhorns just couldn't catch a break, as another fumble put the Rebels at the Johnson County 12-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Andy Wooten connected with Grills for a 3-yard touchdown pass. That put the Rebels up 28-0 at the intermission.
   The Longhorns refused to give up in this contest. They didn't score, but the defense held the Rebels to just one touchdown in the second half.
   "We came out and played hard in the second half," Atwood said. "That's usually the way it goes. When you get in a hole that big it's hard to come out of it."
   That last touchdown was by Grills, who scampered into the end zone on a 14-yard run in the fourth quarter.
   Grills finished the night with 84 yards on five carries, while Tritapoe rushed for 103 yards on only 12 rushing attempts.
   Atwood was impressed with the Rebel ground game.
   "They ran wild on us," Atwood said. "Their team speed was a little better than I thought. All the backs were quicker. They just ran hard, and we didn't play very disciplined on defense."
   The worst thing that happened to Johnson County on this night occurred early in the third quarter when sophomore tailback Jonah Dunn severely injured his knee and was down on the ground for several minutes.
   Dunn, who has become a star in recent weeks, will most likely be out for the remainder of the season.
   Dunn's injury saddened Atwood.
   "He was having a pretty good game, and he's a real good guy," Atwood said. "He works hard, and I just hate it happened to him. I hope it's not as bad as what it looks."
   South's win ended an eight-game home winning streak for the Longhorns dating back to last year. Johnson County is a very tough place to play, but the Rebels were just too much according to Atwood.
   "We usually play pretty good at home," Atwood said. "We just ran into a better ball team tonight. They beat us in every phase of the game."
   The Longhorns will live to play another day. After being picked last by a local newspaper in the preseason, Johnson County finishes the regular season a very respectable 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big Eight.
   The Longhorns wanted to make the playoffs by beating Sullivan South, but they were glad to have Elizabethton's help.
   "We hate to get in that way, but we'll take it," Atwood said.
   Atwood believes Morristown West will definitely provide a stern test for the Longhorns. The Trojans routed Cherokee 41-0 Thursday night in the I-MAC title game.
   "From what I know about West, they're a great football team," Atwood said. "We've got our work cut out for us."