Cougars claw past 'Betsy in EHS opener

By Allen LaMountain


   BLOUNTVILLE -- Momentum is a fickle thing, and when you let it slip away it's almost impossible to regain.
   The Elizabethton Cyclones saw the Sullivan Central Cougars snatch away their momentum in one quick sequence that allowed Central to score a quick goal and help the Cougars sneak away with a 3-2 win on Thursday night.
   Central now stands 2-0 (1-0 conference), while 'Betsy fell to 0-1 (0-1 conference).
   "Being a conference game, it hurts to lose this one," said Cyclone head coach Bill McClay. "I think we were a little out of sorts, and this was the first live game action we have seen and emotions were way up.
   "I think a little added pressure came from it being a conference match, and that expectations are high for this team."
   For the first nine minutes of the first half, 'Betsy dominated with four very good shots on goal that Central keeper Eli Smith turned away.
   But in the 10th minute Cougar striker Brent Smith found Will Avery with a rainbow of a forwarding pass that Avery converted past Cyclone goalkeeper Derek Slagle.
   "We weren't really controlling things very well," said Avery. "But my teammates got the ball and Brent Smith put a good ball out there for me, over the defender's head. The keeper came out and I didn't even have to think about it."
   Staked to a one-goal lead, the Cougars now had some momentum on their side and they continued putting the pressure on Slagle in the nets.
   At the 15-minute mark, Central's Bucky Buchanan did a flip throw from the sideline into the crease area, where Smith drove it home to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
   "Getting that first goal took a lot of pressure off me," said Cougar goalkeeper Eli Smith. "Any lead takes the pressure off, but at first I was just playing with a lot of adrenaline, trying to keep us up."
   'Betsy struck back quickly, however, as Luke Carrier drove home a goal with his left foot off a free kick to get the Cyclones within a goal at 2-1.
   Carrier's scoring shot came at the 39:00 mark of the first half.
   EHS outshot the Cougars 12-5 in the first half, leaving Central head coach Joe McPherson said: "Eli made some tremendous saves that kept us in it, and Ben Wright does a nice job in front of him. Wright's kind of like a traffic cop back there, tracking the ball.
   "When we scored I told my assistant that it was the first time we had put the ball over the center line all game."
   In the contest yellow cards were given to Cyclones' Alex Fries, Michael Tierney and Carrier. Fries' card was for an unsportsmanlike tackle, Tierney drew one for dangerous play when he tried to use a slide tackle in the second half of play, and Carrier was flagged for unsportsmanlike play.
   Carrier got the Cyclones even at the 5:00 mark of the second half on another free kick, and for the next 28 minutes the squad's battled to a standstill.
   At the 33-minute mark, Cyclone Gavin McKinney tackled Colin Campbell inside the scoring box, setting up a point-blank penalty kick for Central.
   Campbell blasted the shot low and to the left of keeper Ben Carey, who came on in relief of Slagle after the second Cougar goal.
   Until that shot went in for Central, Carey had been very effective between the pipes for 'Betsy. Carey turned away three good scoring opportunities by the Cougars before Smith's goal gave Central a lead they would never relinquish.
   One play that stirred a bit of controversy came in the 35th minute of the second half as John David Jativa blasted a header off a feed from Tierney on a corner kick.
   Cougar halfback Kevin Kilgore headed the ball away from the Cougar nets but appeared to be inside the Central goal as he did so, which should have given 'Betsy the tying goal, but it was waved off.
   Central continued to apply the pressure until the final whistle, never letting 'Betsy get another shot off before the whistle ended the match.
   "We expended a lot of energy coming back, and fatigue was a factor for us," said McClay. "It was a big momentum swing when they scored, because we had put some real good shots on goal. Their keeper just came up big.
   "We had plenty of opportunities, but we don't have a lot of time to dwell on it because we get D-B (tonight)."
   Cyclone notes: The Cyclones take on Dobyns-Bennett tonight at 7 in their home opener. This will be a non-conference match.