Cyclones defeat Boone to break from doldrums

By Allen LaMountain
ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   GRAY--Things are looking up for the Elizabethton Cyclones soccer squad after a rough early going. On Friday night at Nathan Hale Stadium the Cyclones scored a season-high four goals as senior striker Gavin McKinney returned from a knee injury to net them all.
   'Betsy (3-6-1 overall) survived an early second half lull that saw Daniel Boone (1-7 overall) rally to tie the game at 2-2 as McKinney -- with a lot of help from his friends -- turned back the Blazers 4-2.
   Asked if he was feeling any ill effects from his knee strain, McKinney replied: "None at all. Tonight was a lot of fun, the guys were sending deep balls right to me where I could put it in the back of the net. It wasn't just me. Robert (Cogan), Ryan (Gough) and Benny (Carey) all got assists. I thought the team did a wonderful job offensively, and we doubled our scoring (output) for the season in this game."
   The Blazers got on the scoreboard in the fifth minute of play on a penalty kick just outside the 'Betsy goalbox by senior Doug Owens, who also tallied for Boone in the second half, but it was a short-lived lead.
   In the 10th minute McKinney received a pass from sophomore Brian Freeman and struck the back of the net past Blazer goalkeeper Justin Miller to tie the game at 1-1.
   Just six minutes later however, the Cyclones struck long distance as goalkeeper Ben Carey spotted McKinney on side just past midfield and delivered a punt that was right on the mark.
   "I got to give Benny a lot of credit on that second goal," said McKinney. "He was in the box for a goal kick and I put my hand up to show him I wanted the ball. He delivered the ball right on target. It caught the wind, bounced high over a couple of defenders and I just beat the last one to the ball."
   'Betsy took that 2-1 lead into the break having poured five quality shots at the Boone goal, while holding the Blazers to just two as Carey and his backline defense was sharp. Kyle Germaine, Drew LaPorte, Andy Ross and Derek Slagle did a fine job of keeping the Blazer attackers at bay for most of the contest.
   The one defensive lapse that hurt the Cyclones occurred in the 17th minute of the second half after a diving stop by Carey of a blast by Phillip Burgess. The Blazers had begun swarming to the Betsy net and Kyle Conrad just missed tying the game with a blast from Carey's left that caught the inside goal post but instead of going into the nets, the ball caromed back out.
   "We had some opportunities in the second half that we missed," said Blazers head coach Mark Dugan. "We always get into these tight matches with Elizabethton and tonight was no different."
   After Burgess' shot, the ball rolled in front of Carey as Ross tried to clear, but Germanine's back was turned to the play and Owens simply stuck a foot in the path of the ball and rolled it into the EHS goal to tie the contest at 2-2.
   "Boone got some momentum going on us in the second half, and were able to get the tying goal," said Cyclone head coach Bill McClay. "But Gavin answered almost right away and that picked us up. That early penalty kick could have gotten us down, but tonight the guys did a good job of looking for guys making runs and got the ball to them. That was the biggest difference in why we were able to score some goals."
   Coming off a tough 2-0 loss to University High on Wednesday night, the Cyclones could have packed in the season with an 0-2-1 conference mark, but McClay was impressed with how his squad responded on Friday night.
   "We out shot UH by something like 12-4, but two of their's went in," said McClay. "I felt we were very unlucky against UH. We had some good shots hit the post or sail high, but tonight we got them to go in the nets."
   In the 67th minute of play, McKinney simply took the game over as he received a pass just across midfield from Andy Ross and Cogan, weaved his way through three defenders into the Blazers goal box where Miller came out to challenge.
   McKinney shifted the ball to his left foot, made a fake to his right and struck an easy goal with Miller sprawled on the turf.
   "I'm disappointed in how we played on defense tonight," said Dugan. "That had been our strength up until tonight when we had some let downs. I'm not sure how we let that kid get through our entire backline to score, but it's something we need to fix."
   Boosted by McKinney's effort the Cyclones quickly returned to attack mode -- in fact didn't allow Boone another shot on goal the rest of the way -- as Gough took control of the ball along the home sideline just inside of midfield.
   McKinney flashed across the midfield stripe where Gough sent a rolling pass right onto the foot of McKinney who again split a pair of defenders. From there it was a breakaway and once again Miller could not stop him as McKinney blasted his fourth tally of the game. McKinney's hat-trick plus gave him five goals for the season in a campaign that has seen Betsy score just six goals all season, but there is reason for optimism.
   "This is a very young team we have here," said McKinney. "It's almost like we are starting over. But, things are looking a lot better. We are starting to come together as a team, knowing where each other are on the field and I think we can continue to improve."
   'Betsy returns home on Tuesday to again face the Blazers at Brown-Childress Stadium.