Junior Cyclones bog down Devils

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   ERWIN -- Austin Taylor's quick reaction to a bad punt snap gave T.A. Dugger the jumpstart it needed in a 20-0 shutout win over Unicoi County in middle school football action Tuesday night at Erwin's Gentry Stadium.
   After the Junior Cyclone offense stalled at midfield on their first possession, T.A. Dugger lined up in punt formation. The snap to punter Taylor sailed over his head, but the quick thinking Taylor ran, picked up the ball and immediately turned his attention to offense.
   No. 20 slashed and dashed his way down the field, turning the botched play into a 51-yard touchdown run.
   "He made a good play out of a bad play," said T.A. Dugger head coach John Oakley. "We had some big plays, but that was the one that put us on top."
   Unicoi County coach Mike Lamey agreed Taylor's early touchdown was the game's big momentum swing.
   "That was the turnaround in the game," said Lamey. "We came out and stopped them and that play put them ahead. That and another fluke play gave them the momentum. They were up 12-0 at halftime and end up winning 20-0.
   "I was tickled to death with our players. I couldn't ask for any more dedication. They've worked really hard after a big loss last week. They played hard and I'm really proud of them."
   In the second quarter, the Junior Cyclones began to establish superiority. A 12-play, 61-yard drive ended when Nick McNeal faked a reverse and took the ball in from 14 yards out. Another highlight of the drive was fullback A.J. Burke dragging two tacklers in a nine-yard run for a T.A.D. first down.
   The Unicoi offense couldn't get on track, fumbling on their next possession. This allowed the Junior Cyclones to run time off the clock, holding a 12-point advantage at the half.
   The Patriots misfired again on their first possession of the second half, failing to convert on a 4th and 2 at their own 43. With the good field position, the Cyclones tried adding to their lead. A 19-yard pass from Preston Smith to Josh Guinn put T.A.D. in scoring range. Unicoi's Ryan Scott delayed their plans by intercepting another of Smith's throws.
   However, the Cyclones were determined to build on their advantage and lined up in a shotgun formation the next time they had the ball. McNeal took a hand-off from Smith on the left side and raced 33 yards to paydirt for the next T.A.D. score. A halfback pass from Taylor to Andrew Kennedy put the final points on the board on the ensuing two-point conversion.
   Unicoi drove down the field in the final quarter, but a sack by Guinn on a key third down play ended the scoring threat. When the final seconds ticked off the clock, it was a win the Cyclones could savor.
   "Overall, we got off quick," said Oakley. "This was a good Erwin team, hard hitters and coach Lamey got his team prepared. But, I thought we did some good things. We tried some new things we fit in from practice.
   "I was very pleased with the shotgun formation. I didn't know how that would go. We never had run that before. We stuck it in after last week we had trouble dropping back to pass. We had some success with that. I have to thank the line - Zack Potter, Josh Arnold, Will Johnson, Brian Jenkins, Andrew Kennedy, Chase Turley, the whole offensive line."
   T.A.D. outgained the Patriots 175 to 85 yards in total offense. Taylor accounted for 71 yards on the ground, while McNeal added 41 yards and his two scores. Andy Ollis and Daniel Bishop led the Unicoi County effort with 44 and 38 rushing yards, respectively.
   The Junior Cyclones will take next week off, before playing host to Sevier Middle School on Tuesday, Sept. 24. at Dave Rider Field.
   In earlier 7th grade action, T.A. Dugger was spurred on to a 24-14 win by a Brooks Price touchdown run in the third quarter and a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown by Justin Fuqua in the final quarter. Andrew Lingerfelt scored a late touchdown for Unicoi County.