Smiles were finally back in style for Johnson County’s football fans after Friday night’s thrilling win over rival Hampton.
However, it took head coach Mike Atwood longer than most to enjoy things.
“Everybody up here said that was the best game they’ve seen,” said Atwood, whose team ended a 17-game losing streak that started, ironically, against Hampton. “I told them I didn’t like it until the last play.”
Atwood’s sigh of relief came in the form of a gang tackle as Hampton went for a 2-point conversion, trailing by one point in overtime.
“They tried an off-tackle play, and we stopped it for anything less than three yards for the first time all night,” said Atwood. “We felt like that was what they would do, just run right behind the big old (Boo) Dugger boy. We put a bigger defensive end in, and we kind of got lucky and stopped it.”
Johnson County trailed 21-7 at halftime but turned the momentum with a gadget play. Receiver Chase Kleine hit Ryan Mahala with a 72-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Patrick South’s 5-yard scoring run forced overtime. Johnson County added a third straight touchdown on Warren Kerley’s 1-yard plunge.
That forced Atwood into a tough decision: kick or go for two.
“We decided to go for two, and then changed our minds,” said Atwood. “We sent Mahala in to kick, and then I just about called timeout. But we trusted the kids, and they came through.”
After Hampton scored, Johnson County’s defensive stop was the type of play the Longhorns hadn’t come up with in a long time.
“That was the biggest difference,” said Atwood. “We made a big play when we needed it. We think this will help, just knowing how to win and how it feels to win. It’s a big win for us. Hampton is a big rival.”
South finished with 150 yards on 26 carries. Timmy Bellamy (11 tackles, interception) and Conner Icenour (9 tackles, 2 for loss) were the defensive standouts.
Area teams casting a peeking eye down the road to the playoffs couldn’t have taken much comfort from Maryville’s win over Alcoa on Sunday.
In a game televised by ESPN2 as part of its rivalry series, the Rebels came from behind to win 42-24.
For Class 6A teams like Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett, it looks like the same old Maryville roadblock. Senior quarterback Nick Myers totaled 192 yards of offense and accounted for four touchdowns. He led his team to 21 unanswered points in the final eight minutes of the game.
And for Class 3A teams like Sullivan North and Elizabethton, who already face the potential of being in the same bracket with defending champion Christian Academy of Knoxville, the fact the Tornadoes were leading in the fourth quarter against the Rebels signals they are still a major state-title player.
Football games of the week: (Thursday) Happy Valley at Elizabethton, Dobyns-Bennett at Sullivan South; (Friday) Volunteer at Daniel Boone, Tennessee High at David Crockett, Johnson County at Unicoi County.
Warriors vs. Cyclones — Happy Valley has the edge in record, but Elizabethton has an advantage in strength of schedule to date.
Indians vs. Rebels — It has been a lopsided rivalry, but at least South will have two weeks of preparation time after an open date.
Falcons vs. Trailblazers — Both teams are off to surprisingly good starts, so Boone’s favorite role isn’t overwhelming.
Vikings vs. Pioneers — Speed and athleticism usually give Crockett too much of a headache to handle in this matchup.
Longhorns vs. Blue Devils — Unicoi County is looking for its first 3-0 start in 17 years while Johnson County is trying to ride the emotional momentum from Friday.
Pick of the Week — Elizabethton 28, Happy Valley 15
The Cyclones don’t like that “winless” tag in front of their name, and beating a close rival would ease the sting quickly.
Picks record: 2-0.
Player of the week — Hunter Abbott of Unicoi County.
A little of this and a little of that added up to a lot for the senior running back in his team’s 34-20 win over Chuckey-Doak.
Abbott, a 5-10, 210-pounder, had two scoring plays of 80 yards or more and finished with 286 all-purpose yards. He rushed for 112 yards, caught three passes for 89, and added an 85-yard kickoff return, which went for a touchdown. Also, Abbott had an 80-yard touchdown run.
The Hogs Award — Volunteer Falcons.
In a 35-0 hammer-down win over Sullivan East, the Falcon Hogs were all over Patriots’ defenders. They paved the way for 311 yards rushing on 37 carries, an average of 8.4 yards per attempt.
Defensive unit of the week — Happy Valley Warriors.
Not allowing a single point while it was on the field, the Warriors’ defense made life miserable for Unaka in a 27-4 decision.
Happy Valley held the Rangers to 104 yards of total offense, with a chunk of that coming late in the game. The Warriors’ offense actually surrendered the only points, coming on a pair of safeties.
Prep spotlight: For the 2012-13 edition of Prep Notes, an extra item is planned. Coaches can submit standout performances for girls soccer, volleyball, cross country and golf.
Submissions should be made on the weekend with a deadline of midnight each Sunday.
E-mail the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week in Prep History — Aug. 18, 2000.
Happy Valley rolled to a 26-0 first-quarter lead and eventually worked its way to a 34-21 victory over Elizabethton. Quarterback Mark White carried 32 times for 188 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Daniel Boone powers up a spot to No. 5, and Johnson County’s upset of Hampton allows the Longhorns to enter this week’s Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Dobyns-Bennett 2-0 1
2. Science Hill 2-0 2
3. Greeneville 0-2 3
4. Sullivan North 2-0 4
5. Daniel Boone 2-0 6
6. Sullivan South 1-0 5
7. Tennessee High 1-1 7
8. Elizabethton 0-2 8
9. David Crockett 1-0 10
10. Johnson County 1-1 nr