Cyclones make Cougars work hard for crown

By Rebecca Pierson
STAR Staff

   BLOUNTVILLE--In what the Elizabethton Cyclones (8-7-1) may call a bad case of déjà vu, they were defeated Thursday night in the 1-A/AA district final, 1-0, by the Sullivan Central Cougars (11-3-1) -- the same score as in the district final two years ago.
   The teams had played closes matches in the regular season, going 3-2, 3-2 in favor of Central. The Cougar team is comprised of eight graduating seniors, who, in the three years of regular season and tournament play, have a record of 21-1 and two district championships.
   It was a solid first half for both teams, with a halftime score of 0-0, with both teams splitting possession time, but the second half was a different story.
   "Our communication seemed to be a little off today," Cyclone head coach Bill McClay said. "We just seemed to be a half-step off all night. Give it to Central -- that's the way it goes when you play a better team. They got the best of us tonight."
   "I thought they had the upper hand in the first half," said Central head coach Joe McPherson. "We were fortunate to be tied at halftime. We are just glad to be surviving. It is amazing what good players can do for you."
   "We had our chances there in the first half," McClay said. "We had a few good looks there, but we didn't capitalize. I felt pretty good going into halftime. The first couple minutes after the half are critical, and we just weren't completely tuned in."
   Within a minute and 15 seconds after the break, Cougar Walt Herbert saw an opening in the middle and took an assist from Bucky Buchanan for the only goal of the night.
   The Cyclone defense had to put up a high guard by an onslaught of attempts at the goal and Central maintaining possession of the ball for the majority of the second half. Goalkeeper Ben Carey kept up his end by taking a few hefty shots and anticipated where he needed to be for those crucial blocks.
   "He is such an athlete," McPherson said. "The first time we played him up here, he was just like a field player. He was everywhere playing with his hands and playing with his feet. He comes out so well and does a lot of preventive goalkeeping.
   "He is going to get to it before we have the opportunity to make the play. He makes good plays too because we pounded him a few times and just couldn't make it in. All we needed was one."
   Cyclones Robert Cogan, Dylan Smith and Ryan Gough all had close attempts but could not land it in the goal.
   "They got that early one," McClay said. "We are happy. All three of the games this year have all been close. We have had our chances. As the game went on, it looked like we were trying hard not to lose more instead of looking to score."
   "Coach McClay does such a good job," McPherson said. "They know us so well, and they know what our strength is and that we go through Colin Campbell. They had two guys shadowing him for a good part of the game.
   "When they got down a goal they had to commit another guy to offense. They still had a guy who was just in his back pocket the whole time. By doing that they left a hole. We just didn't take advantage of that in the first half. The second half we realized what it was."
   McPherson was also a bit emotional after the game when thinking about Joseph Misciagna, a key Cougar defensive player, who was killed in an automobile accident in July. The team has been honoring Joseph with black armbands with his No. 10 on them.
   "We miss him terribly but his energy continues to move us," he said.