The Longhorns captured a second straight Region 1-3A football title behind a 35-12 win at Unicoi County.
The Lane for Johnson County was Nathan Lane. The senior running back and defensive back was responsible for every score by the road team.
“The kids played hard, we had some injuries there and the seniors led us and played hard,” Johnson County head coach Don Kerley said. “We did well up front and we told them if we did that we could win the game.”
With the results, Johnson County, ranked No. 5 in the state, improved to 9-1 overall and 5-0 in league play. With that, the Longhorns welcome Gatlinburg-Pittman next week for an opening-round playoff contest.
Unicoi County slipped to 8-2 overall and 4-1 against region foes. The Blue Devils will be at Gentry Stadium next week to play Kingston in the postseason.
“That one is a tough one to swallow,” Unicoi County head coach Drew Rice said. “I thought we had that slow start like we had early in the year. We improved on that, but got down. We had a couple of turnovers. They’re a good football team. I think winning breeds winning. That’s a group of kids that won a championship last year and they played like it.”
Lane took a wildcat snap up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown run late in the opening quarter for the game’s first score. The next Longhorn possession was more Lane. This drive ended when he went through the right side of the line for the 38-yard score. Lane added the two-point conversion as well to give the road side a 14-0 lead 11:12 before halftime.
The game’s only score in the third quarter came on a Lane interception returned 37 yards to the end zone. It was his second straight game with an interception return for a score. He ran for touchdown scores of 9 and 1 yard in the final quarter to put the game out of reach.
Lane ran the ball 20 times overall for 182 yards. The first half saw him cover 103 of those yards on 11 carries.
Tyler Norris totaled 13 tackles in a stellar performance at linebacker for Johnson County. Zach Eller made a 39-yard catch on third-and-long to key a Longhorns scoring drive.
Unicoi County’s Kody Lewis was bottled up early, but two long passes from Brock Thompson to Brett Strother helped establish the running game. The first connection went for 54 yards — and Lewis ended that drive with a grinding 10-yard touchdown run up the middle.
The next Blue Devil drive had the Thompson-to-Strother connection cover 35 yards to get inside the red zone. That is when Lewis pushed through for a 2-yard scoring dive 35 seconds before the half ended, making it a 14-12 game.
Lewis had 23 carries for 74 yards in the contest. Thompson was 5-for-15 for 102 yards, with 89 of those to Strother.