'Horns bow to South

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   Halloween's battle at Paul H. McEwen Stadium ended Johnson County's season with a 3-4 conference and 4-6 overall record, and sent the Sullivan South Rebels charging into the playoffs.
   South sent the Longhorns slouching into the locker room after a 17-0 shutout, Johnson County's second in a row.
   With a strong 3-1 standing after game four this season, the Mountain City boys let go of the consistency, and crumbled under the tough finish of their schedule.
   With Ian Prudhomme, the team's sole kicker, injured in the first quarter and pulled out of the game shortly after, the Atwood coaching duo was left without many options. Add an ill-placed interception and a controversial play called against the Longhorns, and even the most level-headed individual might begin to believe in superstition.
   Prudhomme was hit late on a punt early in the first quarter, resulting in a 15-yard penalty against South and an automatic down for the Longhorns. "We got a doctor's report, and Prudhomme was out for the game," said Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood. "We didn't have a punter."
   With their only punter benched, the Longhorn squad was soon forced to go for it on fourth down, and couldn't make it, a scenario that would play out more than once during the night. Atwood was substituting receiver Nathan Paisley as a punter by the end of the game.
   A twenty-yard Brinker pass that landed safely in the hands of Jesse Jenkins pushed the Rebels back significantly in the second quarter, but Johnson County's downs soon ran out, and South took over on offense.
   A fourteen-yard pass from Rebel quarterback Aaron Hudgins to Beau Hauldren, and a 25-yard pass to Cody Daventport drove the Rebels to Johnson County's 11-yard line with forty seconds left on the clock. South's runningback Colin Sandidge took it into the endzone after two drives, and Brandon Willingham kicked the extra point, putting the Rebels in the lead 7-0 just before the half ended.
   "We knew coming up here, just the drive up here is in itself about an hour and a half drive, and watching them on film, we were really scared a little bit because they're so physical," said Rebel coach Jeremy Jenkins. "A lot of times, we have trouble with good physical running games, but tonight, I thought we were the more physical team. We just took control of the line of scrimmage on both sides."
   "Seven to nothing at halftime, I felt like we still had a good chance of winning the ball game, but we just got a couple bad breaks, and it turned the game around," said Atwood.
   In the second half, the bad luck continued for the Longhorns as a Brinker pass to Shane Humphrey was called as a backwards pass, although many argued that the ball was tipped before it got to Humphrey. Hudgins took advantage of the opportunity for the Rebels with a 23-yard pass to Daventport.
   "It was a hitched play, but that's the play that I think kind of broke our spirits, because we were moving the ball fairly good, and that linebacker tipped it so I don't know how it could be a backwards pass, but that's what they called it, and we've got to go with what the ref says," Atwood said.
   "That was a big play - they didn't score on it, but that broke our back defensively."
   Several plays later, the Rebels were on the Longhorn six, and Sandidge and Hudgins jointly drove it to the two. On South's fourth and goal, with only two yards left to go, the Longhorn defensive line planted themselves firmly, and stopped the offense from scoring again.
   However, the Longhorns faced the situation of driving the ball out of their own endzone, a difficult task for any offensive squad. Daniel Cranford pushed three yards into the defense, and Brinker squeezed in a six-yard pass to Nathan Paisley. With one yard to go, and their punter nursing a torn ligament, they had to go for it, but Hauldren pushed Brinker backwards on the carry.
   "Backed up in our own endzone, I thought it would be too much pressure for somebody (to punt) who hadn't ever done it," Atwood said. "That's why Nathan (Paisley) punted there at the end. We couldn't even kick an extra point, so we were in pretty bad shape."
   Late in the third quarter, Willingham kicked a 20-yard field goal, adding three points on the Rebel side to make the score 10-0.
   The fourth quarter proved to be detrimental for Johnson County as Sandidge drove forty-five yards in six consecutive carries. After the Rebels placed themselves within a yard of scoring, Sandidge took it in, and Willingham kicked the PAT again.
   "We really took control of the game the second half with Sandidge and just handling the football," Coach Jenkins said. "Of course we had some breaks. We've had some bad luck the last two or three games. We were due some breaks, and tonight was our night."
   "The second half, they just found something that worked, and I think they ran the same play probably six times in a row," said Coach Atwood. "We just couldn't stop it. It was the same play they ran for the touchdown right at the end of the half."
   "South played harder than we did, and they deserved to win, but if we'd moved the ball on offense at all, we would have had a chance to be in the game, because our defense played good."