Trailblazers trim 'Horns

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
MOUNTAIN CITY--In a game where both teams became deadlocked in a struggle for points, Daniel Boone eventually prevailed, squeaking by Johnson County 9-7 at Paul H. McEwen Stadium on Friday night.
Each defense held its opponent to one touchdown, but Daniel Boone made an essential field goal early in the game that proved to be the winning factor.
"We didn't quit. We played hard, gosh almighty," said Daniel Boone head coach Carl Richards. "We knew that Johnson County would play hard. We knew the game would be just like it is if we didn't take care of business."
Boone attended to its business early in the game. Max Bacon and Sky Hicks made the first three downs with alternating carries. After a ten-yard holding penalty against the Trailblazers, and with 19 yards to the third down, Boone quarterback Ben Fox brought his arm into play and fired a 27 yard pass into the waiting hands of Zach Julian.
With 20 yards to the end zone, Brett Ploucha kicked an impressive 37-yard field goal that sailed through the goal posts for Daniel Boone's first three points.
The Longhorns failed to make their first down, but a forty-yard punt off the toe of Ian Prudhomme and a quick tackle by Jason Stout held the Blazers to their end of the field. On Boone's possession, a holding penalty set the offense back to second and eighteen, and they mimicked the Longhorns, turning the ball over after four downs.
Both defensive squads held their ground firmly, as the battle on the field raged, and possession was overturned time after time. As the minutes in the first quarter dwindled, the Blazers pushed their way to the thirty, and Fox tried for a pass to Julian. The pass failed, so Fox tried the right side, sending the ball to Brice Teague twice more, but again, the passes failed and the ball was turned over to Johnson County.
After a 30-yard punt from Prudhomme, Boone used star running back Sky Hicks to move the ball 18 yards in three carries. Fox threw a pass to Teague, which was almost intercepted by Johnson County's Nathan Paisley, but was called incomplete. On Boone's fourth down, Ploucha's punt was blocked by Mitchell Harper and Sam Reece, giving the Longhorns a much-needed advantage.
However, a detrimental play to Johnson County was soon to follow. As the Longhorns drew close to scoring, Teague intercepted Jeff Brinker's pass.
"We have to be able to score some points when we get inside the 20," Atwood said. "We drove the ball down inside the 20 three times tonight and didn't get any points at all. We've just got a lot to work on. Our red-zone offense has to get better. We have to learn how to turn intensity up when we get close to scoring and put some points on the board. That's the bottom line."
Despite the interception, the Johnson County boys pulled it back out when Tony Smith broke away from the action on a 55-yard touchdown carry. Prudhomme kicked the extra point, and Johnson County had the upper hand at 7-3.
The Blazers drove the ball to the 9-yard line, but again, Fox's four consecutive end zone passes didn't make it safely to Teague and Julian. With nine seconds left in the half, Brinker ran the clock out.
"All those dropped passes in the end zone killed us. If we (had) caught any of those balls, it's not even a ball game. We (would have been) up four touchdowns in the first half," said Coach Richards.
"We played good enough (defense) to win, but I was disappointed in the defense. All they were running was the lead play right at us. It was just man-to-man," said Coach Atwood. "You know, we're going to block you and we're going to run it. I didn't think we stopped the lead play too well. Our pass defense was fair -- we didn't put any pressure on the quarterback and that hurt us. They dropped a few balls, which helped out."
The 15-minute halftime yielded the homecoming court for JCHS. Savannah Lewis was crowned 2003 homecoming queen.
After a battle for yards, Johnson County once again made it inside Boone's 20-yard line. As the Longhorn kicking team got into formation, the crowd expected Prudhomme to kick a field goal, giving Johnson County 10 points. At the last moment, the holder tossed the ball to Prudhomme, who raced to the end zone, rousing the crowd in cheers. The run was not counted, however, because as the ball was snapped, the holder's knee was touching the ground.
"Having that play called back hurt us, because it gave them the ball back," Atwood said. "We've been practicing that play, and I told the officials before the game that we were going to run it, and our man just left his knee on the ground. We went over it, and over it, and over it, and told him he's got to have his knee off the ground. It was a good call. It wasn't a bad call. He just left his knee on the ground, and got excited I guess."
Boone maintained possession throughout the rest of the third quarter, and Sky Hicks scored early in the fourth on a 10-yard touchdown run. The extra point failed, and the ball turned over to the Longhorns.
A 37-yard Brinker pass to Nathan Paisley helped move the Longhorns down the field, and the Longhorns once again drew close to scoring, but Boone's quarterback Fox intercepted a second pass intended for Paisley.
"I was proud," said Boone coach Richards. "Our kids hit the back of the wall, and we made the plays we needed to at the end. I told Coach (Atwood) when the game was over, it was a shame anybody had to lose a game like that, because both teams played hard. We were fortunate."
With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, Boone wide receiver Brice Teague was injured on a play. After several minutes, he was taken to the hospital, and the Blazers played the rest of the game with renewed intensity.
"It was precautionary," Coach Richards said about Teague's ride in the ambulance. "He was moving; he wasn't paralyzed or anything like that, we were just taking precautions. We think it's just a local sprain or a bruise."
When the Longhorns received the ball next, they drew close to scoring once again. With less than 20 seconds on the clock, Prudhomme's field goal fell short, and Fox ran out the clock, giving Boone the win by two points.
"It never should have come down to that last kick," Atwood said. "We feel like it was probably our worst game of the year. We made mistakes. Our boys just weren't focused. When you get inside the 20, you've got to score. Our guys weren't focused. We didn't coach a good game, and they didn't play a good game, and you deserve to lose when that happens."
Atwood plans to have the Longhorns prepared for Sullivan East next week.
"We're going to work on it this week, and if we get inside the 20, we're going to get some points out of it next week. It's never a good thing to lose, but if it will refocus them, maybe it will work out for us."