Sullivan East discards Johnson County

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   BLUFF CITY- This isn't the same Sullivan East.
   The Patriots (2-5, 2-2 in the Mountain Lakes) made a statement on Friday night, and put themselves in a position to make a playoff run by pounding the Johnson County Longhorns 35-12 at Sullivan East High School.
   East did most of its damage by taking advantage of Johnson County turnovers. The Longhorns turned it over five times, and East scored on four of those possessions.
   "We definitely ran into a better football team tonight," Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood said. "The turnovers hurt us, and we felt like we could stay in the ball game if not for the turnovers and some penalties."
   The touchdown that probably showed it was going to be a long night for the Longhorns happened when Jeremy Banner recovered a Johnson County fumble 61 yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion made it a 21-0 game with 11:44 to play in the second quarter.
   Sullivan East head coach Ralph Nelson was very pleased with how his team took advantage of golden opportunities.
   One thing with turnovers, if you can't do anything with them then they don't do you any good," Nelson said. "We were able to do that finally tonight. The kids played their hearts out, and they played as good as they've played all year.
   The Longhorns looked like they might make a run late in the second quarter when quarterback Adam Johnson found Jason Poteet in the end zone from 18 yards out to cut the Patriot lead to 21-6.
   Atwood thought there was still hope at that point.
   "I felt like we had a chance," Atwood said. "We were getting the ball at halftime, and I told the boys if we go down and score we're right back in the ball game. It just didn't work out."
   Third quarter rushing touchdowns by Josh Wright and Justin Horton for East silenced any whispers of a Longhorn comeback, and at that point it was a 35-6 Patriot rout.
   Both touchdowns were set up by Longhorn turnovers, but credit should go to the East defense for making plays all night long.
   "Our defense stiffened up," Nelson said. "That's one thing that we try to do, especially after reading (a newspaper article). We tried to stop somebody on defense, and we did that tonight.
   The Longhorns did make the score a little more respectable after a fourth quarter rushing touchdown by Tony Smith brought the game to its final tally of 35-12.
   Atwood admitted that the turnovers were just too much to overcome, but complimented the upstart Patriots for their effort.
   "That's what good teams do," Atwood said about scoring off turnovers. "Teams that are really trying to turn the corner, that's what they do. The people over here ought to be proud of them. That's a good football team."
   The game did have one very memorable moment, as a little skirmish broke out toward the end of the third quarter. One Sullivan East player and a Johnson County player got ejected from the contest.
   Atwood was disappointed with things getting so out of hand.
   "We'll take care of that," Atwood said. "We felt like they were holding us all night long, and we just lost our temper. We'll take care of that before next week.
   Sullivan East hurt the Longhorns through the air and on the ground. Sophomore quarterback Matt Eads went 9-of-13 for 96 yards and a touchdown, while Wright finished the evening with 51 yards to lead a balanced running attack.
   Horton also had two touchdowns for the Patriots.
   Daniel Dugger topped Johnson County with 57 yards on the ground. Johnson netted 47 passing yards on the night.
   The Longhorns, who now fall to 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the Mountain Lakes, face their toughest challenge of the season next week with the Elizabethton Cyclones coming to Mountain City.
   The Cyclones have averaged 58 points in their last two games, so Atwood knows the task will be a difficult one.
   "I feel like they've got the four best offensive players in the league, and probably the best defensive player," Atwood said. "We're really going to have a tough time. Our starting tackle got thrown out of the ball game, so he can't play. We're just going to have a hard time controlling their athletes. I don't know what we're going to do."