Sullivan South escapes feisty Elizabethton, 2-1

By Marvin Birchfield

   The Cyclones battled tough throughout their matchup with Sullivan South, but they came up just shy of a victory, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Rebels Wednesday night at Brown-Childress Stadium.
   Two second-half goals from the Rebels made the slight difference, as both teams played to a standstill in the first half.
   "Overall it was a great effort with the score 0-0 at the half, but we didn't have a whole lot of opportunities to capitalize on," said Elizabethton coach Bill McClay. "I think certainly the first goal we probably should have prevented, but hey, a 2-1 result and this is a very good AAA school."
   In the first three minutes of the contest Sullivan South had several opportunities with the ball down near the goal, but some good defensive stops from the Cyclone goalkeeper, Ben Carey, denied a score.
   Elizabethton experienced injuries in the first half to Justin Linebaugh and Adam Green, as they were already suffering from a shortened roster with guys playing out of position.
   "We had a couple of guys get injured tonight, and a couple who couldn't be here, so we had a lot of people playing different positions," said McClay. "Everybody stepped up huge to give us the results we got, so I'm real happy."
   It wasn't until six minutes into the contest that the Cyclones had their first scoring opportunity, but a shot from Robert Cogan missed off to the right of the goal.
   Sullivan South was turned away on an indirect penalty shot at the midway point of the first half, when a kick from Bobby Austin was stopped by Carey.
   "We've played five games in the last eight days and we weren't mentally here, but I don't want to take anything away from Elizabethton. They played a great game and made huge strides from last year," said Sullivan South coach Ty Laguardia. "They've become a solid team and a well-rounded group of boys, and the score from tonight just exhibits they have tremendous heart and character."
   The Cyclones avoided surrendering a score in the last minutes of the half, with Drew LaPorte coming up with a block on a kick down low and a couple of misses from the Rebels.
   "We were a little disappointed from our loss last night against Sullivan Central (3-2), but we rebounded well for this game both emotionally and psychologically as a group," said McClay. "It was good to see everybody step up."
   It wasn't until 26:02 that the first score of the evening happened, when Austin made it past a Cyclone defender.
   Austin got behind Tyler Ross, and after the goal-keeper came out to defend, a pass was made to Brandon Willingham for an easy uncontested shot.
   "I came out when I shouldn't have, and I just need to have better communication with my teammates," said Carey. "I have a bad tendency to come out to the side when I don't need to, and it cost us a couple of goals, so I'm going to work on that. Otherwise I felt like I played pretty good defense."
   The Cyclones almost came back with a shot from short range afterwards, but Josh Fair was unable to get his feet set and attempt a kick.
   Another scoring opportunity presented itself for Elizabethton when Ryan Gough got the rebound off a block shot Unfortunately for Elizabethton, the kick sailed too high over the net, which could have tied the contest with 13:00 left.
   Kyle Germaine made a nice defensive move for the Cyclones to stop an inbounds play, but the Rebels found success on their next in-bounds attempt.
   "I thought we played an excellent game, and we were unlucky, but there's not much we can do about that," said Germaine. "I'm used to playing up front and not in the back, but we still did well."
   A scramble for the ball down near the goal resulted in a score in the final minutes.
   "We didn't show much maturity early and thankfully we corrected it in the last 10 or 15 minutes. If we hadn't then it could have easily been a win for Elizabethton," said Laguardia. "We want to push the kids as hard as we can if we're going to get to where we want to be, and that is the step toward being one of the better teams in East Tennessee."
   It was not clear from the stands viewpoint whether or not the ball cleared the plain of the goal, as the ball bounced out with the whistle sounding.
   The official rule the shot from was good, before the Cyclone defense could swat the ball away.
   "I think we might have gotten robbed on that one goal, but the ref called it," said Carey. "If they wouldn't have gotten that goal then it would have been a 1-1 tie, but that's the way soccer is."
   With time dwindling down, Elizabethton was able to break into the scoring column.
   An attempted penalty kick from Jeff Alman was blocked by the Rebel goal-keeper, but Eric Crowe was able to come up with the rebound to put the kick through.
   "I hit that in the center of the box off the PK and it went through the goaltenders legs and made it in, so I'm proud of that because it's my first one this year," said Crowe. "We played them toe to toe and they played tough against one of the top teams in the state on Monday. We did really well, so I'm proud of us that we did it."