EHS throttles Pittman

By Allen LaMountain
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   GATLINBURG -- Two teams that admittedly knew little about each other got to find out if its beat was enough to move on Tuesday afternoon at Hammonds Field, as 'do-or-die' season in soccer began in earnest.
   The 'Betsy Cyclones proved to be good enough indeed as EHS won a huge contest on the road, blanking the Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders 3-0 to move to the next round.
   The Cyclones got on the board in the 12th minute on a goal by Gavin McKinney, and from there the Highlanders' chances were as good as the life expectancy of an open can of tuna in a roomful of hungry cats.
   'Betsy rained 17 shots on goal in this contest and held the 'Landers to just three, even though G-P saw two breakaway attempts by Ben Jones go by the wayside as he fired high each time.
   The Cyclones came out on the attack from the opening touch, and within the first minute Michael Tierney fired the first shot of the contest at G-P keeper John Miley, who was up to the occasion with a diving save that deflected the ball past the end line, setting up a Cyclone corner kick.
   That corner kick came to naught, but minutes later another corner kick by Tierney saw Luke Carrier head the ball just off the right post, and off that rebound Carrier sent in another shot at Miley, who was able to make the stop yet again, but 'Betsy smelled blood now.
   John David Jativa dribbled down the home sideline past two G-P defenders and into the G-P goal box, where he fed McKinney with a touch pass in the crease and McKinney funneled it home.
   "Getting that first goal was huge for our confidence," said McKinney. "Because we knew nothing about this team coming in. All we knew was that they beat Chuckey-Doak 4-0, and we figured the Chuckey-Doak must be pretty good. But when John David got the ball he saw me and sent it right past the goalkeeper. All I had to do was nudge it in."
   The goal gave the Cyclones a lead that would look to the Highlanders as big as the Grand Canyon, as it was not able to mount a consistent offensive threat against the disciplined 'Betsy defense.
   "That goal was huge," said Highlander head coach Paige Yates. "In this game every goal is big. They are so hard to get. But EHS impressed me in that they made us play over our heads skill-wise. They we're well-disciplined and well-coached, and now we know who the Cyclones are. We'll be gunning for them next year."
   Most of the first-half play existed in the Pittman end of the field as 'Betsy won every ball sent out to the midfield, and that enabled the Cyclones to keep constant pressure on the 'Lander defensive unit.
   Jones, however, showed some nifty moves in positioning himself for a breakaway in the waning minutes of the first half, but his shot may have been taken in haste as he fired it high over the Cyclone nets. Earlier Jones had a free kick from 35-yards out sail over the EHS net as well, as G-P missed on its two real scoring opportunities.
   At the break the Cyclones had sent eight shots on goal to the Highlanders two, and the second half proved to be more of the same.
   "In the first half we really pressed good and hard," said EHS head coach Bill McClay. "The defense set the tone today, and they had said, 'If we play our game, play solid defense we'll win,' and they challenged the offense to do their part."
   In the 48th minute Tierney again placed a corner kick within striking distance and Carrier popped the ball into the air with a header and controlled to the mid-field, where Lincoln Orellana passed to Tierney in the corner.
   Tierney sent a high pass into the box that Jativa headed past Miley to stake the Cyclones to a two-goal lead, and take the wind out of the Highlander sails.
   "We didn't know what to expect from them, but we knew that if we lost it was over," said Jativa. "And this team has a lot of seniors that still want to play, so we did the best we could to make that happen. On my goal I just saw the ball floating there, and I thought the keeper had it, but he whiffed on it and I just put my head to it and it went into the corner.
   "We did a good job of keeping possession, and we want to dominate possession and move the ball around, but the big thing is scoring goals."
   From that point on the Highlanders would have more yellow cards (two) than shots on goal (one), as EHS continued to pour it on defensively.
   In the 54th-minute Jones was given a yellow card for unsportsmanlike and in the 74th-minute G-P's Mark Martin was flagged as well.
   "We are a much simpler team than what I saw from Elizabethton, in terms of how we can move the ball around," said Yates. "EHS did a good job of crossing the field and a good job of stopping us defensively from what we wanted to do."
   In the 76th minute Carrier capped the scoring and put an exclamation point on as complete a victory as 'Betsy has had all season. He set up in the box and Tierney fed him from the left side. Carrier's shot sailed past Miley to his left hand side and sealed Gatlinburg-Pittman's fate.
   "Anytime you are controlling an area of the game it gives the team a lift," said Carrier in assessing his team's defensive performance. "It allows us to put a lot more pressure on the goal(keeper) and gives our forwards some chances. As long as the ball is not on our defensive half of the field it's a big boost."
   McClay was pleased with the way the team performed after its tough loss to Sullivan Central last week.
   "We played the way we are capable," he said. "In the second half we came out and dominated. We possessed the ball, played it on the ground and looked a lot better than our last game. It's do-or-die time now. We had to come down here and get a win, and we did it."