'Horns, Rebels look to extend their seasons

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
Many teams in the Mountain Lakes Conference are feeling the pressure as their last games of the season draw closer. The results of Halloween night will determine who will advance to the playoffs, and who will retreat sullenly home.
The Johnson County Longhorns have several shots at being one of those lucky teams that move on. If they defeat Sullivan South tonight, they will advance as either the third or fourth-place team, depending on how the other conference teams fare.
If the Longhorns lose, they could still possibly advance, given that Sullivan Central overcomes Daniel Boone, and Tennessee High takes down Sullivan East.
"It's do or die for us," said Longhorn coach Mike Atwood. "If we win, we go to the playoffs. If we lose, we go home." Atwood has high hopes for his team this year, who he feels deserves the playoffs after a damaging season last year.
"I think the boys understand that," he added. "Especially the seniors. I expect them to play good."
Johnson County's conference record is even, with three wins and three losses, and their overall record is 4-5. South has a 2-4 conference record, and has won three games and lost six overall.
Coach Jeremy Jenkins of the Sullivan South Rebels knows that his team will face an agressive line and be forced to deal with hard-hitting tackles.
"I think it'll be a real physical battle on both sides of the ball," he said.
Aaron Hudgins, South's quarterback, will probably prove to be a threat to Johnson County's defense. Described as having an arm "like a cannon" by opponents, Hudgins has collected more than 800 passing yards, barely trailing the ground yardage.
"We're hoping to use some of our weapons against them," Coach Jenkins said. "We hope to use some of our receivers."
Three of Hudgins' favorite targets are Timmy Meade, Grady Moore, and Eric Ramiez. Meade has cradled passes for over 315 yards, including one for 66 yards.
"We're hoping to put pressure on the quarterback and make him throw sooner than he wants to," said Atwood. "We want to keep him from running out around the side."
Atwood knows that keeping South's running backs in check is also a crucial task to complete in order to make the playoffs. "They have a pretty good wide receiver, and a good tight end. All their running backs are solid, so we're going to have to tackle good."
Those potentially dangerous players are Colin Sandidge and Brandon Cole, making up the majority of the Rebels' rushing yards with numbers reaching beyond 450 and 230, respectively.
"You have to run the ball some, so we're hoping to get out there and run the ball," said Coach Jenkins. "Their defense is really after the ball. You have to do a good job of just stopping what they do and executing."
Tony Smith leads Johnson County in rushing, collecting 681 yards so far this season, followed by quarterback Jeff Brinker and dual tailback/noseguard Daniel Cranford with 173 each.
Nathan Paisley is a versatile player on Atwood's offense, racking up 206 receiving yards, 96 rushing yards, and 202 yards in kickoff returns, in addition to four touchdowns.
Paisley, Brinker, and Cranford have all tallied four touchdowns for the Longhorns this season.
Longhorn kick Ian Prudhomme and Rebel points kicker Bradon Willingham have close statistics. Prudhomme has made 13 of 15 extra point attempts, and Willingham, 13 of 16.
"Johnson County is a great place to play, so we hope we can go out there and win," said Coach Jenkins.
Atwood, however, has other plans. "I feel like we've got as good of a chance as anybody to make the playoffs. I think we're going to."