Longhorns play tough in defeat

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   KINGSPORT--The Johnson County football team didn't play Friday night like a team that had only won one game all season long.
   Instead, these inspired Longhorns gave the third-place team in the Mountain Lakes Conference all it wanted.
   The Sullivan South Rebels came away from Death Valley with a 21-6 triumph over the Longhorns, but it was a dogfight.
   The Longhorns only trailed 7-0 at halftime, and that touchdown came on a fake field goal which was actually a busted play.
   Also in the first half, Johnson County got inside the 20 twice and didn't score.
   If the Longhorns score on those two possessions, Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood says it could have been a different ball game.
   "I was proud of their effort and proud of the way they played," Atwood said. "Again, a few mistakes cost us. If we score there early, we have as good of a chance to win as they do. I knew this team could play good all year, we've just not had any breaks. I just hate it for the seniors, because they played hard.
   Johnson County wide receiver Jason Poteet was very pleased, but thought it could have been even closer.
   "We thought we played good enough to beat them," Poteet said. "We've had bad breaks all year. I guess we just can't get one."
   After the Rebel offense scored on its first possession, which was capped off by the Matt Morelock pass to Aaron Robinette, the Longhorns kept South out of the end zone the rest of the half.
   The Longhorns did a good job of controlling the football. After South's first possession, Johnson County kept the football most of the way in the first half.
   The Longhorns made it inside the 10 on two possessions, but the Rebel defense dug in and stopped the boys from Mountain City.
   South carried that momentum into the third quarter, when Matt Morelock capped off a successful drive with a 1-yard scoring keeper to make it a 13-0 Rebel lead.
   The Longhorn defense, which was playing without an injured Adam Leonard, prevented South from scoring again until the fourth quarter.
   South hit paydirt when Robinette scampered from seven yards out to give the Rebels a commanding 19-0 advantage with 6:35 to go in the game. A successful two-point conversion completion from Morelock to Patrick Lankford made it 21-0.
   The Rebel running game proved lethal on this night, and it was led by Robinette. He finished with 156 yards on 21 carries.
   "He's a hard runner," Atwood said. "I noticed on the film that he doesn't go down when one man hits him. We probably missed 40 tackles on him I would say."
   The Longhorns weren't going to be shutout on this night. On the next drive, Aaron Payne got the Longhorns going with a 32 yard gain to put Johnson County in Rebel territory.
   A few plays later, quarterback Adam Johnson found Poteet in the end zone from 26 yards out to bring the game to its final score of 21-6.
   "I was running a five, and then Adam broke free," Poteet said. The cornerback came up, and I just drifted on back. It was a good play on Adam's part."
   The passing game finally got going for the Longhorns on Friday night. Johnson finished the evening 7-of-16 for 100 yards through the air.
   Poteet led the Longhorns in receiving yards with 45.
   "It felt pretty good," Poteet said. "We've been waiting to get the passing game going all year. The run has pretty much been there. Everybody worked hard this week. We finally got it together."
   Most of the players involved in the passing game are seniors, so Atwood wanted them to go out on a high note.
   "We wanted to give the senior players a chance to have a good game in their final year," Atwood said. "Of course with Adam being our quarterback, we wanted to throw it. We finally ran it like we were supposed to. We blocked pretty good, we threw the ball pretty good, and we caught it pretty good."
   The Rebels improve to 5-2 in the Mountain Lakes and 5-5 overall, as they get ready to travel to Greeneville in the first round of the TSSAA Playoffs next week. The Longhorns end their season at 1-6 in the Mountain Lakes and 1-9 overall.
   There may not have been too many wins for Johnson County this season, but the Longhorns have been impressive the last two weeks. After playing a respectable game against league champion Tennessee High, Johnson County showed Friday night that this team refuses to give up.
   "This bunch never did quit," Atwood said. "They played hard every game, and they played hard the whole season. We're proud of effort, but of course we would have liked a little better outcome."
   LONGHORN NOTES:
   * Leonard's injury was an ACL tear that he suffered in practice this week.
   * Freshman Thomas Moore filled in admirably for Leonard as a linebacker, and showed why he is considered to be one of the best freshmen in the Mountain Lakes.
   * Longhorn defensive end Justin Bishop led his team in tackles with 14 on Friday night, as he is asserting himself as a potential Defensive-Player-of-the-Year candidate on the STAR's All Carter/Johnson team.