EHS freshmen take 'Toppers in waning seconds

By Ivan Sanders

   JOHNSON CITY -- In a contest that had more resemblance of two heavyweight prize fighters exchanging ferocious punches, the Elizabethton freshman football team came off the deck to land the decisive blow with only three ticks left on the scoreboard.
   Cyclone QB Weston Jeffers had a hand in all four EHS scores, as Ryan Witten's young Cyclone squad registered an impressive 26-20 victory over Science Hill at Steve Spurrier Field on Thursday evening. The win erased eight years of futility against 'Topper freshman gridiron teams.
   "Our backs and line did a great job tonight," said Jeffers after the contest. "All I had to do was lay the ball out there and let the receivers catch it and let our defense do the rest."
   The first half looked to be the beginning of the end for the Cyclones after Science Hill broke loose in the second quarter, following a scoreless opening stanza of play in the first.
   Kyren McClaine, a big, bruising running back for SH, got the 'Toppers rolling with a 24-yard TD run at the 9:11 mark of the quarter. Dehee Quewea's extra-point attempt was true and the 'Toppers led 7-0.
   The Cyclones couldn't maintain hold on the pigskin on their next possession as Quentin Bassett picked off a Jeffers offering at the Cyclone 25-yard line and took it the distance for a 14-0 lead after Quewea's kick. Needless to say, the Cyclone faithful were getting a little nervous after all the action in the first four and a half minutes of the quarter.
   After going three and out, the Cyclones punted the ball back to the 'Toppers. Led by the outstanding play of Jeremy Wallen, Jessee Hampton, J.C. Atkinson, David Bray and Adam Grindstaff on defense, the Cyclones were set to receive a punt from SH's Quewea when the ball sailed over his head and was recovered by big 6-5 defensive end Logan Hyatt, who also contributed a fantastic defensive effort.
   Jeffers then connected on the first of three TD passes when he hit a streaking Ryan Kennedy down the sideline for a 36-yard score. Dustin Henson's PAT was good and the Cyclones had cut the lead in half.
   "This game was a lot like the varsity game last Friday night," said 'Topper head coach Scott Hazell. "We had the momentum early, then it swung over to them late in the half."
   "I told our kids to keep fighting to get the momentum back at halftime, and they did late in the fourth. It just came down to who had the ball last and my hat is off to EHS because they called all the right plays."
   The shots came fast and furious in the second half. EHS took the opening kickoff and on the fourth play of the drive, Jeffers found Kennedy once again for a 65-yard bomb that brought the teams even after Henson's extra point.
   'Betsy found paydirt again in the quarter, as this time Jeffers called his own number and went in from three yards out to put EHS up 20-14 after the snap on extra point was errant.
   With 1:47 remaining in the contest, SH made things interesting as it was able to tie the score on a perfectly executed pitch from 'Topper QB Brandon Shoun, who alertly tossed the ball to Michael Forney as he was going down, allowing Forney to score from 13 yards away.
   The scoreboard read 20-20 with a sure bet in Quewea up for the PAT, but the snap was low and the kick was blocked.
   It looked like an overtime session was around the corner, but the Cyclones had a thing or two to say about that.
   With Quewea being injured on the previous PAT, Brandon Keen squibbed the kickoff short, which was covered by Landon Shields at the EHS 49-yard line with 39 ticks remaining.]
   After a short run by Jeffers resulted in no gain, the Cyclones lined it up with 10 seconds remaining. Jeffers lofted a perfect toss that was snagged by Atkinson, who outraced the 'Topper secondary for a stunning 51-yard touchdown with only three ticks left, giving the Cyclones a 26-20 advantage.
   Grindstaff did a good job on the ensuing kickoff as he hit a knuckle ball off the chest of Jordan Hughes. There was a mad dash for the ball as time expired and victory in the bag for EHS.
   "This was a huge win for us," stated an elated Witten after the game. "We had the first-game jitters early in the first half and our defense had to spend a large part of the half on the field.
   "The kicker being hurt was a big key and Hampton did a great job of recognizing he had to tackle him on the scramble. We are on the road and the field was short so we had to go for the win."
   With the win, the Cyclones have pulled a season sweep on the 'Toppers winning the varsity, junior varsity, and freshman games this season. All three contests are ones the Cyclone team and fans will not forget any time soon.