DANIELSVILLE — Early turnovers put Johnson in a hole that it never found a way out of against Madison County.
The Red Raiders put up 17 points in the first quarter with the help of a Knights turnover on downs, a muffed punt and a fumble, and won 31-3 in the teams’ season opener Friday night.
“I thought we came out with a great amount of energy and played well early on,” Johnson coach Jason Roquemore said.
“And then we got some of those tricky bounces. We’ve just got to learn as a team we’ve got to be able to overcome those.
“Some of those situations, it’s hard to practice and it’s hard to simulate at practice. But when you experience those in the game, you’ve got to be able to play through it.”
Johnson took over at the Madison County 28-yard line after blocking a punt in the opening minutes, but turned it over on downs after losing seven yards on the drive.
Ethan South, one of the Red Raiders’ quarterbacks, then used cutbacks to avoid tacklers and break free for a 50-yard touchdown run to give Madison County a 7-0 edge with 7:42 remaining in the first quarter.
A muffed punt by Johnson later led to a Levi Larkins 27-yard field goal that made it 10-0, before the Red Raiders’ Sam Bartlett stripped the ball from Knights quarterback Chase Sims and returned it to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, K.J. Burton’s three-yard touchdown run pushed the hosts in front by a 17-0 count.
Then, a 38-yard Cade Hancock touchdown pass to Malik Freeman to cap a three-play drive made it 24-0 in the first two minutes of the second quarter.
Hancock also had a 13-yard touchdown throw to Dylan Gentry in the third quarter to push it to 31-0.
That final Madison County score came with 8:48 left in the third quarter.
Johnson responded with a 19-play drive that ended in a 37-yard Isaac Henry field goal to put the Knights on the board with 9:37 remaining in the contest.
“It speaks to the character of our kids,” Roquemore said. “I’ve said a thousand times ‘our kids work their tails off.’
They were down in the game, but still rooting, still pulling for the guy next to us and playing hard. And that says a lot about where we are as a program.
“The mistakes we made tonight are fixable, and we’ve just got to fix them.”
Kavin Hopkins led Johnson with eight carries for 39 yards.
Hancock was 8 of 12 for 118 yards and two passing touchdowns for the Red Raiders.
Johnson (0-1) hosts West Hall in the Battle of Oakwood next Friday, while Madison County (1-0) visits Jackson County.
“It’s another opportunity,” Roquemore said. “That’s the greatest thing about football season is you’ve got another opportunity coming next Friday.”