Given what was ahead, Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood stressed to his team the need for a good defensive effort against Wise Central.
The Longhorns held Wise to just 91 yards of offense, with most of that coming in the fourth quarter of a 26-0 victory on Friday night in Mountain City.
“We really put the pressure on the first-team defense,” said Atwood. “We needed a good defensive game going into the game against Elizabethton. We challenged the kids and told them we needed to have a big game.”
Johnson County held Wise to just over two yards per rushing attempt, picked off three passes and didn’t allow Wise inside the 30-yard line.
Standing out on the defensive side of the ball was linebacker Daniel Lester. Early in the game Lester moved to middle linebacker because of an injury, and he responded with 12 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.
“He really played well,” said Atwood.
Also standing out on defense were Colton Phillips and Cole Peters at end positions.
As for the offense, it was another step forward for sophomore quarterback Warren Kerley. In the early part of the season, Kerley was more of a game manager as running back Patrick South churned out the yards on the ground.
However, as defenses loaded up the box to stop South, Kerley’s role changed. His completion percentage was down a bit against Wise (8 of 18), but he still racked up 159 yards.
“He threw some good balls,” said Atwood. “We tried to bring him along as slow as possible because he’s only 15 years old. But since he’s learned the offense a little bit, we’ve opened it up for him to make plays — and he has.”
Overall it has been quite a turnaround from last year’s 0-10 finish.
“That was hard to take,” said Atwood, whose team is 4-3 this season. “But as soon as the season was over, we made up our minds to do things differently. We cracked down on them and got a little tougher.”
Science Hill is 7-0 for the first time since 1979 after its 17-0 shutout of Daniel Boone.
That team started with 10 straight wins before getting whipped 50-0 by Oak Ridge in the second round of the playoffs. Included in the mix of wins was a 9-7 decision against Dobyns-Bennett in Week 2, and a 7-0 victory over Elizabethton in Week 6.
Dobyns-Bennett has scored 148 points in its last two games while allowing zero. It’s the first time since 1990 the Indians have recorded back-to-back shutouts.
West Greene’s 31-12 win over Claiborne gives the Buffaloes a fighting chance to reach the Class 3A playoffs. They will likely need wins over South Greene and Chuckey-Doak to get there.
Sullivan North’s win over Union, Va., gives the Raiders a record of 43-12 since the start of the 2008 season. They are 7-1 this year.