Cyclones shipwreck Vikes at Stone Castle

Photo by Rick Harris
ElizabethtonÕs Lester Bailey sifts through the Tennessee High defense.

By Ivan Sanders
BRISTOL--The Tennessee High Vikings were looking to set its sails for a third straight regular season title, but there was a group of Elizabethton Cyclones that were determined to blow the Vikings' boat off course at Stone Castle on Friday night.
Indeed they did, as the Cyclone offensive line responded to the challenge in opening the holes for Lester Bailey and company to score two first half touchdowns to lead the visiting Cyclones to a nail-biting 14-13 win.
"We'll enjoy this win tonight and tomorrow and then we'll get back to work Sunday evening to prepare for our next game next Friday because this is only the first step, it's not the championship," said a thrilled Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins.
"The offensive line knew what the challenge was because it all starts with them and for the most part tonight, the line did an extremely good job."
Jake Jenkins, Daniel Wagner, Cody Fair, David Anderson and Trevor Hyder gave Bailey, Jordan Bray, and Jake Berkley the gaps needed to pick up the yards when needed.
The defensive line also continued to pound the opposition with helmet-banging stops and an unrelenting pressure to give the Cyclones the opportunity for victory.
Bailey rambled for 124 yards rushing in the first half, including an 80-yard gallop to give the Cyclones the one-point halftime edge at 14-13, with Craig Estep perfect on both extra-point attempts. Berkley put the Cyclones up early with a touchdown plunge from two yards out at the 5:05 mark of the first quarter.
"We came off the ball tonight the way we knew we could," said Jake Jenkins. "We realize we still have a long way to go and a lot of obstacles still ahead, but this has put us on cloud nine and we feel like we can move the ball all the time."
Tennessee High used multiply sets on offense to confuse the Cyclones and managed to rush for 228 yards on 50 carries for the night, but were stopped by the EHS defense at the most crucial points of the game.
Ezra Valdez scored on a three-yard jaunt, and Marcus Nidiffer hit Maurice Whitten with a one-yard bootleg toss as time was running down at the half. One of the many big plays of the night was when Zach Edwards' extra point attempt hit linebacker Derek Nave in the chest to keep the narrow gap at one before the half.
Bailey almost took one to the house on the ensuing kickoff before Edwards coaxed Bailey out of bounds as time expired.
The second half was like watching two opponents joust during the medieval days in the courts of a castle, as both teams bent but never broke in a scoreless half.
Possibly the biggest series of the night took place on the Vikings last drive of the contest. After moving the ball to midfield, Cyclone defensive end Logan Hyatt made a bruising hit on Viking quarterback Nidiffer for a four-yard loss with 1:03 remaining in the contest.
Adam Turley knocked down Nidiffer's second down throw to bring up a crucial third down with 16-yards to go. Nidiffer was rushed again on third down and threw the ball beyond the grasp of receiver Cory Phillips to bring up fourth down.
With only 51 seconds left, Nidiffer dropped back into the pocket and threw toward his receiver Whitten. Lester Bailey leaped high into the air and knocked the ball to the turf, setting off a wild celebration by the Cyclone fans, which had responded in numbers and spirit.
Berkley ran the last 44 seconds off the clock by taking a knee to set off a massive Cyclone celebration in the middle of the field.
"Elizabethton played well and they played smart," said an exhausted Viking coach Greg Stubbs. "We did some things mentally that we just couldn't overcome as a football team."
One of the many heroes for the Cyclones on the defensive side of the ball was Justin Conners who finished with six tackles on the night.
"I knew I had to step up with Eric (Cannon) being injured," said the towering Conners. "I realized I had to do my job and do what a Cyclone does and that is to play hard every play."
Bailey had nothing but compliments for the job the Cyclone offensive line did on the night.
Said Bailey: "It's very sweet and I am glad we won it. The offensive line stepped up big tonight behind the seniors. We have another shot at winning the title now."
Defensively, the Cyclones were lead by Nave with another outstanding night from his line backing position with 11 tackles followed by Evan Lindauer with eight. Charles Peters contributed with seven stops while teammates Conners and J.C. Atkinson added six each.
Peters also added a 34-yard completion on a fake punt to Levi Hooten to set up the Cyclones first score.
Brandon Anderson had 162 yards rushing for the Vikings on 22 carries to keep Tennessee High within reach of Elizabethton.
Next up for the Cyclones will be the undefeated Happy Valley Warriors, who are riding a tidal wave of momentum. The game will once again be played at Brown-Childers Stadium with kickoff slated at 7:30 p.m.
Game notes: Defensive back Nathan Bishop was taken to the hospital at halftime after falling ill. It appeared the back may have had a mild concussion and was taken to the hospital for precautionary measures. It is expected that Bishop will be ready for the Warriors.
Cannon was sitting out the game after breaking a finger against Science Hill. He is expected to have surgery to insert a pin in the finger.
Evan Lindauer also suffered a mild injury to his shoulder in the last defensive series. It is unknown his status at press time.