Austin-East ends Longhorns' unbeaten run

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Nov 10, 2017 at 11:14 PM

MOUNTAIN CITY — Johnson County’s dream season came to an end Friday night, but not until Nathan Arnold and Shane Greer gave Austin-East nightmares.

Arnold hit Greer for three touchdown passes in a 30-21 loss to the Roadrunners in the second round of the TSSAA Class 3A playoffs at Paul McEwen Stadium.

It was the end of a record-setting career for Arnold and a record year for the Longhorns, who came into the game 11-0.

“This season was about family and being humble,” said Arnold, who completed 18 of 35 passes for 243 yards. “We went 4-6 last year and we didn’t have many people looking at us to be as good as we were this year. We came together and said we were going to win as many games we could. We won all of them in the regular season. I wish we would have won more in the playoffs, but that’s the way the Lord had it planned out for us.”

Greer was the leading receiver with nine catches for 178 yards. Their first touchdown tied the game and their second and third gave Johnson County leads in the contest.

First-half lead

After Austin-East scored on the opening drive capped off by a two-yard run by quarterback Elijah Jeter, the Longhorns responded with a 64-yard scoring strike from Arnold to Greer.

After Nathan Lane came up with an interception for the Longhorns, Arnold and Greer combined on a 54-yard touchdown pass for a 14-7 lead. Greer shredded a pair of would-be tacklers with a pair of good stiff arms on the play.

The Longhorn defense then held Austin-East on a pair of fourth downs in Johnson County territory in the second quarter.

Johnson County worked its way to the Roadrunner 26 before the drive stalled and Arnold’s pass was intercepted on fourth down. But the Longhorns limited Austin-East to a 31-yard field goal by Edward Hakizimana and took a 14-10 lead into the half.

Second-half turnovers

A fumble early in the third quarter gave the Roadrunners a short field, which they converted with an eight-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Ligon.

However, the Longhorns responded on the next drive and Arnold hit Greer in the right corner of the end zone for a 19-yard score.

Austin-East took advantage of another Johnson County fumble and retook the lead on a seven-yard run by Ligon, who finished with 16 carries for 59 yards.

The Roadrunners scored the game’s final touchdown on a 36-yard TD play from Jeter to Kiyontae Warren. Jeter hit 10 of 19 passes (6 of 8 in the second half) and ended with 146 yards.

“I wish we could have put it a little more out there, but turnovers killed us,” Arnold said. “I’m proud of our defense. They did a great job.”

Defensive leaders included Hayden Osborne and Tyler Norris with 13 tackles apiece. Jordan Edes-King and R.J. Snyder each had 10 tackles.

Looking back and forward

“The kids gave it their all every game,” Johnson County coach Don Kerley said. “I’m proud of the seniors and it was a good year for us. We have to hold our heads up. Austin-East has a good team.

“It’s been an awesome season. It just seems like it’s been short, like, boom, boom, boom and it’s over. The kids played hard every game and they hung it out there on the line. They played Longhorn football the way it’s meant to be played.”

Austin-East improved to 10-2 and will play at Alcoa, the No. 1-ranked team throughout the regular season, in the third round.

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