By Tim Chambers
SPORTS EDITOR

Dollywood’s best rollercoaster ride couldn’t have the ups and downs that Johnson County has experienced this football season. The Longhorns lost its top player Jared Kimble to a season-ending shoulder injury last Friday in a 22-21 win at West Greene and was faced with going on the road to Hampton with only four days to prepare.
The team may have struggled to find its groove, and at the end, beaten soundly. But all is not lost with the defeat and here’s why.
Johnson County can still earn the top spot in the District 3-A playoffs with a little help. But they need to take care of business on their end if they want to host another first-round playoff game.
It starts on Friday when Claiborne County will make the three-hour journey to Mountain City to battle the Longhorns in a critical Mountain Six matchup.
The Bulldogs are coming off a lopsided 65-13 loss at Unicoi County but don’t let the numbers fool you. The Blue Devils can put up points but were minus two of their dynamic playmakers against the Blue Devils.
Quarterback Eli Stone leads the team and running back Greg Goins who had a 74-yard touchdown run versus the Blue Devils. Stone threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Haden Hollins for their other score, but they couldn’t shut down Unicoi County’s high powered offense.
It’s been that way for most of the season, and the numbers will prove it.
They have beaten Pigeon Forge 28-20 and Unaka 54-28 while losses have been to Union County 54-45, West Greene 31-28 and Unicoi County.
Johnson County has been just the opposite. The defense played well over the first four games while the offense has sputtered at times.
Their wins have come against Sullivan East 14-13 and West Greene 22-21. Losses have been to Sullivan North 12-7, Chuckey-Doak 14-10 and Hampton.
The Longhorns will need a stingy defensive effort to slow down the Bulldogs. The offense must find a way to move the football as Hampton exposed several weaknesses.
The Longhorns’ offensive line had trouble with Hampton’s defensive front, and their running backs could not get to the outside on the Bulldog defense ends.
Corrie Neely had a couple of big plays in their win at West Greene but did not touch the football against Hampton.
The Horns could take a page out of the old Tennessee football playbooks to try and get Neely and speedster Lucas Phillips the ball out in the open terrain. The Vols threw across the field to their speedy wideouts who showcased their talents out in the open field by making people miss.
The team rushed for only 47 yards at Hampton including three in the first half. Most of their 95 yards of total offense came in the second half with the clock running continuously.
The defense needs to play its best game of the seasons against a Bulldog team that has a scoring average of 33.6 points per game.
Fans are urged to arrive early at the
game to cheer on the Longhorns. Kickoff for homecoming night is set to take place at 7:30 p.m.