'Horns aim to find offense vs. Trailblazers

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   GRAY--If a team gives up two touchdowns in three games, usually that squad is in good shape.
   Not so with the Johnson County Longhorns.
   The Longhorns have allowed just 15 points in their last three contests, but have lost two of those three games. Johnson County will look for better luck this Friday night at Daniel Boone High School against the Trailblazers.
   Kickoff is at 7:30. Johnson County enters the game 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain Lakes, while Daniel Boone is also 1-4 overall and 0-2 in league play.
   Going into this game, the Longhorn defense has been one of the best units in Northeast Tennessee all season long. The problem has been scoring points.
   Johnson County has scored no more than 14 points in a game all year.
   The last time the Longhorns scored two touchdowns was week two against Sullivan Central.
   Atwood said after a hot Tuesday afternoon practice that this subject has been addressed.
   "We've been talking about that," Atwood commented. "I think we've given up 15 points (in the last three contests) and have just won one game. We're not pleased with our offense. We're just going to work on it. That's all we can do."
   Atwood is still searching for answers on why the offense can't find the end zone, but he thinks lack of team speed has hurt his team.
   Last week's leading Longhorn rusher tallied 28 yards.
   "We don't have anybody with breakaway speed," Atwood said. "But we're also not executing our offense very good, either. I don't know if it's due to injuries or due to whatever, but we're just not executing very well. We're having too many mental mistakes at the wrong time. And we're shuffling too many people around, we're going to get in one set and stay with it."
   In Johnson County's 7-6 loss to Happy Valley last Friday, Adam Johnson was moved back to quarterback after playing tailback. Atwood is set on keeping him as the team's signal caller.
   "They were keying on him at tailback," Atwood said. "Everywhere he went they were going to. We actually moved the football a little better with him at quarterback, because they weren't keying on him all the time. And we just felt like that was our best move to just spread out and throw it a little bit, so the defense couldn't key on him at tailback every play.
   "He will be at quarterback this week."
   The offense may be struggling, but there's just not enough time to say how great the Longhorn defense is. Johnson County is leading the Mountain Lakes in points allowed.
   In Friday's game against the Warriors, a contest that came down to a missed two-point conversion, the Longhorns held a Happy Valley offense that had been rolling along to 110 yards.
   "Our defense has played good," Atwood said. "I think we have as good of a defense as anybody in the conference. We're fixing to find out."
   The Longhorns will be going up against a Trailblazer offense that struggled early, but picked things up in its victory over Cherokee last week.
   It's a team that likes to throw the football. Ben Fox started the season at quarterback, but was injured early on. Running back Chris Clear was converted to quarterback, and he gives the 'Blazers a threat throwing and running the football.
   Tailback Byron Taylor and wide receiver Austin Rader provide explosiveness to the offense.
   The Trailblazers' tendency to throw the football has Atwood concerned.
   "This will be the biggest test for our secondary so far this year, and actually our defensive line," Atwood said. "They moved that running back to quarterback, and he's a good runner. If we run by him, he's going to hurt us. We're going to have to contain him, and put some pressure on him. It's going to be a good test for our defense to see how good they are."
   Linebackers Dustin Breedlove and Kevin Aldridge lead a Trailblazer defense that with the exception of the David Crockett game, has played very well.
   "Their defense is tough also," Atwood said. "If all you can do is run the ball, then they're going to beat you. Right now that's all we can do."
   After a tough start, Atwood says this team is starting over. It's Mountain Lakes play the rest of the way, and the Longhorns are ready to forget about the first part of the season.
   "We told the boys this is a new season," Atwood said. "If we win these next five, it's not going to matter how many we won. We still control our own destiny. We're disappointed of course, but we still feel like we have a chance to have a good season."