'Horns tackle Boone

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
The Johnson County Longhorns will line up against the Daniel Boone Trailblazers Friday evening in their homecoming game. At the top of the standings, with a 3-2 overall record, and firmly standing undefeated in the conference, Johnson County hopes to add another win to their record as school spirit soars through the halls of JCHS.
The Blazers are 1-4, with a 16-point shutout over David Crockett. Boone will prove to be menacing in the air, keeping the Longhorn defensive crew watching like hawks for potentially quick-scoring passes.
Quarterback Ben Fox has led the offensive drive for Boone so far, racking up 537 passing yards in the first half of the season, while dutifully completing 36 of 100 passing attempts. Fox has also scored a touchdown on a quarterback keeper.
Favorite targets of Fox are Josh Sturgill, who has caught six passes for 133 yards, and Bryce Teague, cradling five for 105 yards.
"Their offense looks good on film," said Johnson County defensive coach Austin Atwood. "Anybody that throws as much as they do has a chance to put points on the board."
"I hope we can hold them to 10 or 13 points," Austin added. "We feel like this week, we might step it up offensively. Defensively, we hope not to let them make any quick scores, and offensively, we'll have to drive it."
However, with a defensive crew to brag about, Johnson County is prepared for Fox's passes. The Longhorn boys have already picked off four passes this season, and expect to put their defensive deftness to use during their homecoming game.
Johnson County currently holds the second-place position for the strongest defense, giving up only 1039 yards in five games. Spearheading that power is utility man Daniel Cranford, who recently expanded his prowess on the field to playing offense for the Longhorns, and Adam Johnson, a player whose tackles are difficult to dodge.
Cranford will continue to play both sides of the ball if things go as the Longhorn coaches plan. However, he continues to stand strongest on defense for Johnson County.
"He's our defensive captain, so that's where he'll be playing the most, but if he can get a few (runs) in, that'll be good," said Austin Atwood.
Longhorn quarterback Jeff Brinker is slightly more careful with his passes, attempting only 51 this season, but accurately completing half of those for 333 yards. Brinker has thrown four touchdown passes, prompting full team participation by hitting a different receiver each time.
Jeremy Cornett is his leading receiver, catching 13 passes for 188 yards, including one touchdown pass. Nathan Paisley, Ian Prudhomme, and Jesse Jenkins make up the other three end zone catchers.
Another talented player possessed by Johnson County is Ian Prudhomme. Prudhomme, the team's kicker, has scored nine of 10 extra points, and has made 24 punts for 774 yards. Prudhomme has also shown his offensive flexibility by catching a 30-yard touchdown pass.
The kicking responsibility for Boone is shared by Bryce Teague and Brett Ploucha. Teague tends to the majority of punts and kickoffs while Ploucha takes care of the scoring kicks.
Teague has made fourteen punts for 372 yards, and Ploucha, eight for 257. Ploucha has successfully kicked two of four extra point attempts, and made his only field-goal attempt.
Leading the offense for the Blazers is sophomore running back Sky Hicks. Hicks has collected 335 of Boone's total 438 rushing yards in seventy-two carries, and has scored three touchdowns.
"Their tailback (Hicks) ran the ball good," said Austin Atwood. "They have three or four that can drive the ball. They've got a few weapons."
The Trailblazers will also have to watch out for Johnson County's rushing game. Tony Smith has taken care of that area thus far for the Longhorns.
Smith has 259 yards under his belt in 59 carries, as well as two touchdowns. Jeremy Gerace follows with 15 rushes for 78 yards, also including two touchdowns. The Longhorns will have to play this Friday's game without their third strong rusher, Jonah Dunn.
While Johnson County has only a 29-yard jump on cumulative offense over Daniel Boone, they hope that their strong defense and school pride will be able to slow the Blazers' scoring.
Austin Atwood believes that the high level of school loyalty will contribute to some excellent playing on Friday.
"It'll definitely play a role," he said. "The emotions will be high. We know it's all conference games from here on."
The defensive coach realizes that the rest of the season will be a deciding factor in Johnson County's shot at the playoffs.
"The next few games are crucial - we know that and the kids know that. We'd love to host a playoff game."
The crowning of the homecoming queen for Johnson County will take place at halftime. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.