The Johnson Knights came into their Friday night matchup against Cherokee Bluff looking for their first home win in over two seasons. And while there were some bright moments for the Bears, the Knights would not be denied the victory.
Johnson quarterback Sam Corbett saw to that personally.
Corbett rushed for 144 yards and scored a trio of touchdowns, and the Knights ran away in the fourth quarter with a 34-13 win, their first at home in more than two seasons.
“It’s nice to win, win period,” Johnson head coach Jason Roquemore said after the game. “But it’s nice to come out and play in front of a crowd like this and our community.”
Corbett’s first touchdown came in the final seconds of the first half. After being locked in a 0-0 tie for the entirety of the opening quarter, Johnson and Cherokee Bluff both put up scores in the second. First, Johnson wide receiver Garry Daies took a punishing run into the left corner of the end zone off a pitch on one side of the field. Then, the Bears’ Zach Merced rushed in from 10 yards out on the other. The score was Cherokee Bluff’s first in program history.
Trailing 7-6 with the clock winding down, Johnson worked the ball down into the red zone thanks to big runs from Daies and Nolan Bullock. Eventually, the Knights reached the 1 yard line with 13 seconds to go. Roquemore called Corbett’s number, and the senior quarterback finished the drive in style.
Immediately after taking the snap, Corbett left his feet, diving head first into the end zone for the score, putting Johnson up 12-7 going into the break.
“It was kind of an instinct thing,” Corbett said. “I just pushed forward and my feet got knocked out from under me and I managed to jump over.”
Corbett scored from one yard out again at the beginning of the third quarter to give the Knights a 19-7 advantage, but his third touchdown of the night was perhaps his most important.
Cherokee Bluff quarterback Connor Boyd rushed in for a score of his own to start the four quarter, bringing the score to 19-13. With the lead threatened, Corbett took things into his own hands, rushing for a big gainer on the first play of the ensuing Johnson possession.
Just a few snaps later, he was plunging in again, this time from 2 yards out, powering through much of the Bear defense, and putting the Knights back up by two scores.
“We’ve had a lot of games where a defense will give up a score and that will deflate the offense,” Corbett said. “Having that turnover of confidence was really big tonight, to give the confidence back to our defense.”
The Johnson defense never lost that confidence, as it kept Cherokee Bluff out of the end zone for the remainder of the game. The Knights eventually scored one more touchdown to finish off the 34-13 win.
After the game, Corbett looked on as his teammates celebrated with the home crowd, a crowd which had not witnessed a win at home since 2015 — Corbett’s freshman year. As he watched the team and the student section sing along to the band’s rendition of “Hey Jude,” he relished the feeling of a home victory — a feeling he hadn’t experienced for more than two full seasons.
“There’s nothing better than winning here,” he said.
Johnson will look to keep things rolling when the take on Riverside Military Academy on the road next week. Cherokee Bluff will regroup and look for its first win next Friday at home against Athens Academy.