On three carries, Nick Johnson exemplified the growth of the Tellico Plains Junior High School football team.
Because on those three carries against McMinn County on Thursday, Sept. 5, his first of the game, the seventh grader ran for three touchdowns and totaled 194 yards. And that was just the beginning for a Junior Bears team that dominated its opponent 40-0 to notch the first win in program history.
“Three weeks ago, we couldn’t line up,” Josh Mullinax, Junior Bears offensive coordinator and son of former Tellico Plains High School coach John Mullinax, said. “We didn’t know which was offense, defense. We had so many guys that didn’t know what was going on. We’ve come so far, so long.
“It’s amazing the stuff that these kids (have done). And look in their eyes and seeing them smiling, tears in their eyes and happy that they had the first win ever at Tellico Plains Junior High? Man, there’s nothing better than that.”
Johnson broke free for a touchdown on each of his first three carries, with scoring runs of 56, 73 and 65 yards, respectively. He was the entirety of Tellico’s scoring offense until the game’s second quarter, when quarterback Ethan Harris ran for a 34-yard touchdown.
Johnson finished with an insane stat total of 241 yards, along with the three touchdowns, on just nine carries.
“Nick’s got some speed,” Mullinax said. “He’s just a seventh grader and it’s his first year playing. He’s going to be something special. We’ve got him for one more year, thank the Lord for that.”
The Junior Bears led 28-0 at halftime, having converted two of their four two-point conversion attempts.
Harris connected with Austin Williams on a 31-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to give the Junior Bears a 34-0 lead, with the two-point try no good, during the third period.
A final rushing touchdown, this one a 62-yard rush by Sony Duncan, coupled with a failed two-point conversion attempt, gave TPJHS its final score of the 40-0 victory and the first official win in school history.
“We’ve moved the ball against everybody we’ve played against,” Mullinax said. “We’ve had some penalties, we’ve had some fumbles. We’ve moved the ball at times; we just couldn’t put it all together. But the blocking was real good up front. Austin Williams on the edge and Gannon Hamilton and Riley Burnette and Ezra Lance and Malaki Roberts, and Evan Davis did a great job of snapping. In the jamboree, we couldn’t get a snap off. We changed centers, and he’s done a great job of snapping.
“Ethan Harris went to quarterback. He played quarterback for the first time and did a great job tonight and threw a touchdown, threw a couple two-point plays … But I think just up front, they did a good job and finally learning the scheme and learning how to block and where to block and learning the football fundamentals.”
With their first ever win now in the record books, the Junior Bears will turn their attention to the county rival Sequoyah Junior Chiefs. The two teams will square off at TPJHS on Thursday, Sept. 12.
“For seven years that I’ve been here, I coached at the high school, and that was our goal was to beat Sequoyah. Never did,” Mullinax said. “It was great to see the high school team beat them this year. That was great and hopefully the junior high can do that next week here at home.
“It’s just a program-building win … when those two (teams) meet each other in any sport, it always gets the blood boiling a little bit, which is good.”
Ethan Harris — 1/1, 31 yards, TD
Nick Johnson — 9 carries, 241 yards, 3 TD
Harris — 7 carries, 82 yards, TD
Austin Williams — 1 reception, 31 yards, TD
Harris — 4 tackles
Riley Burnette — 4 tackles
Hunter Ogle — 3 tackles
Chance Shapiro — 3 tackles
Austin Hall — 3 tackles
Williams — 3 tackles