Atwood leery of'Blazers

star staff

  MOUNTAIN CITY -- The Johnson County Longhorns arguably field one of the toughest conference schedules late in the season.
  It all begins tonight.
  With Sullivan East, Elizabethton, Tennessee High and Sullivan South looming later on the team's agenda, the TSSAA's 10th-ranked 4-A squad will try to stay unbeaten this week against a tested Daniel Boone unit in Gray.
  Armed by a strong passing game, the Trailblazers would like nothing more than to derail the 'Horns (2-0, 5-0).
  "They throw the ball a little bit and they have a good running game when they need to," said Johnson County coach Mike Atwood. "They'll be a tough team to beat."
  As with four of their wins this season, Johnson County wants to control the clock against the unpredictable offense.
  "We want to control the clock and we hope to create turnovers and get some points out of them," the coach said. "We've got to keep the ball as long as we can."
  Boone enters week six after a 28-9 loss at the hands of rival Science Hill.
  The squad carries a 2-3 record, beating Volunteer and David Crockett, while losing to Sullivan South and Tennessee High in conference play.
  Leading the way for the 'Blazers is quarterback Ben Fox, who is ranked second in the Mountain Lakes Conference with 1,086 yards through the air on 54-of-88 passing with eight scores.
  "We're going to have to (key in on him)," Atwood said of Fox. "He's the key to their offense. We need to try to contain him and get some big defensive plays. They've also got a good tailback and some good receivers."
  With 470 yards thus far in the year, Sky Hicks looks to do some damage from tailback.
  He has the ability to come out of the backfield and make some grabs in the team's passing game along with the team's top two receivers, Zach Julian (14 grabs for 215 yards) and Hunter Compton (12 grabs for 158 yards).
  Defensively, Atwood expects a challenge for his team's running game.
  "They look solid," the coach added. "They have a good linebacker and they stunt quite a bit. I don't know a lot about their pass defense, but they are pretty strong at stopping the run."
  Obviously, the healthy 'Horns will need another big game out of T.R. Smith, who leads the conference in rushing, as well as right tackle Jon Stout, plus and a solid defensive performance.
  Smith, who has 878 yards on 95 carries thus far in the season, will be aiming for the 1,000-yard mark this week.
  "He needs to have a big game," Atwood said. "He's had a good week of practice and his play is crucial to our run."
  Tonight's action begins at 7:30.