Central slips from Cyclones' grasp

By Wes Holtsclaw

   In a match filled with four penalty kicks, an array of cards and a lot of aggression, the Elizabethton Cyclones had their work cut out for them Thursday night.
   Against senior Colin Campbell and the Sullivan Central Cougars, Elizabethton fought from a halftime deficit to take a lead in the second half.
   But two made penalty kicks by Campbell under the halfway mark in the frame led Central to a 3-2 decision at Dave Rider Field.
   Cyclone senior Derek Slagle made two penalty kicks of his own at the beginning of the second stanza to give his team the advantage.
   However, the Cougars turned it up a notch at the end.
   "I think maybe they got a little momentum and we got back on our heels a bit," said Elizabethton coach Bill McClay. "We got up and I think with the emotion of getting up a bit, we probably should've responded with intensity instead of emotion.
   "We got all excited and they came back with a lot of intensity to tie the game," he said. "It was kind of a strange game with four penalty kicks in the second half."
   Elizabethton, now second in the Watauga with a 3-2-1 conference mark, had several chances to score in the first half, but deflections hurt its cause.
   "We had our chances," McClay said. "We hit both uprights and a crossbar in the first half. It was only 1-0 at the half and we easily could've had one or two. We had some decent looks in the second half. We did a pretty good job of denying them any real good shots."
   Dylan Smith, Drew LaPorte and Ryan Gough each had shots deflected off the uprights and crossbar at the beginning of the match.
   Robert Cogan also sidekicked one off the top of the bar, which could've went in if it were a couple of inches shorter.
   A solid attempt by freshman Chris Wilson was saved by Central goalie Caleb Hickman and the Cougars began to rally.
   Luke Avery slid one past Elizabethton goalkeeper Ben Carey, however, Slagle went for the defensive effort and tipped it into the goal with 3:20 remaining in the first half to give Central the 1-0 edge.
   After being caught in a tangle at the beginning of the second half, Slagle hit his first penalty kick at the 37:13 mark to tie things up.
   The Cougars showed plenty, perhaps too much aggression at that point of the game, giving Slagle another kick in their territory.
   This time, with 27:50 left on the clock, Slagle sliced it into the corner.
   Elizabethton seemed to back down a bit at that point and Central capitalized.
   Paul Malone and Ben Wright helped keep the ball inside Cyclone territory with Campbell, who was also a defensive and passing force.
   Campbell got tripped up at the 16:22 mark and lightly made his first penalty kick.
   A shot off the crossbar gave Elizabethton the chance to move inside the opposing territory with 4:00 on the clock.
   However, it got pushed back out to Central and a collision led to another penalty kick from Campbell, who was given the chance to potentially win the game with under two minutes left.
   Campbell's kick bounced off the crossbar, but a follow-up tap made it 3-2 in favor of Central.
   "We made sure we knew where he was all night," said McClay of Campbell, one of the league's best players. "Because if you don't, he will hurt you and he's tough anyways."
   "That was part of the gameplan to shut him down," he said. "If he's got the ball on his feet and time to look, not only is he dangerous himself going to the goal, but finding other players."
   Carey had five saves on nine faced shots for Elizabethton, while Hickman had four saves for Central.
   The Cyclones will host Daniel Boone at 12:30 today, with senior night coming next Tuesday against David Crockett.