The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 24, 2013

Tanner shakes off rust in loss to Johnson

By Jonathan Deal

HUNTSVILLE — It had been more than 640 days since Tanner last tasted defeat. Even though it was just an exhibition game, the Rattlers experienced that feeling in a 20-14 jamboree loss to J.O. Johnson.

Playing on the artificial turf of Louis Crews Stadium, Johnson proved it could match Tanner’s speed, something few teams have done in the past two years.

DeVon Johnson demonstrated that speed more than few times when he got behind the Tanner defense for big plays. The Jags receiver scored on a 60-yard touchdown pass from brother Danny to tie the score in the second quarter.

Blake Whitt opened the scoring when he caught a 21-yards touchdown pass from Jonathon Fletcher with 2:20 left in the first quarter.

Tanner went to the air after Johnson crowded the box to shut down the Rattlers’ running game. Running back Hayden Stephens found few holes, but was able to escape on a few draw plays while the starters played in the first half.

Stephens finished the first half with 14 carries for 79 yards.

Although the Tanner defense was caught napping on a pair of long pass plays, its defense held strong in the red zone to keep a first-quarter shutout. After DeVon caught a 45-yard pass to set up the Jags inside the Tanner 20, the Rattlers defense shut down a fourth-and-goal attempt.

Following the game’s opening touchdown, Tanner had three consecutive three-and-out series and was unable to capitalize on a Johnson fumble at the Jags’ 37-yard line just before the half.

With reserves playing in the second half, Johnson held on for a narrow victory.

Tanner will travel to Madison Academy Thursday, Aug. 29, to kick off the high school football season. That game pits the defending 2A champions against the defending 3A champions.

Kickoff in Madison is set for 7 p.m. T