Cyclone defense proves its worth

By Tim Chambers
star staff

  Everyone knew how explosive the Happy Valley offense could be, but fans got a glimpse of what happens when coaches and players keep working their tails off to get better.
  After giving up 59 points in two games, the Elizabethton Cyclones threw a monkey wrench into the Class 2-A, No. 2 ranked team's offensive machine, resulting in a 23-0 'Betsy win at Brown-Childress Stadium Friday night.
  Happy Valley came into the contest averaging 36 points per outing, but found the going tough against an aggressive Cyclone defense. "It sure feels better this week than it has the past two," said Cyclone defensive coordinator Richard VanHuss.
  All night long it was the 'Betsy defense that dictated the tempo of the game. The Warriors had trouble containing Derek Nave, who once again led the Cyclones in solo tackles with a dozen.
  The turning point in the game came when Charles Peters picked off a Todd Caldwell pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. The most amazing feat was that Peters was hit at 12 but somehow managed to bull his way in for the score.
  "The coaches had talked all week about everyone stepping up and making plays," stated Peters. "We been having trouble scoring from the red zone, so I wasn't about to get tackled before reaching the end zone."
  Peters' run was an example of how the defense played the entire evening -- all out and holding nothing back. His fumble recovery in the first half gave 'Betsy another scoring opportunity.
  Another Cyclone who stepped up his game was Levi Hooten. Hooten duplicated Peters with a 36-yard interception for a touchdown, breaking two tackles en route to the end zone.
  "Levi played his best game as an Elizabethton Cyclone," added VanHuss. "He was around the ball all night long."
  The unsung heroes had to be the front four of the Cyclone defense. Guys like Trevor Hyder, David Lyons, Steven Bowers, Zack Potter, Justin Connor and Logan Hyatt had Caldwell scrambling for most of the evening.
  "Those guys got after it up front," VanHuss said. "We don't have a lot of size but those guys went after it against a very good quarterback."
  The linebacking core of Mitchell Blevins and Matt Fox along with Peters and Nave were sure on every tackle. Fox had eight tackles while Blevins added six to aid the 'Betsy defense.
  Another huge play came before the half when Jake Berkley made a big stop on third and three behind the line of scrimmage, forcing Happy Valley into a fourth and eight. J.C. Atkinson had four tackles on special teams play.
  The biggest statistic for the game had to be in the turnover department: Happy Valley 3 Elizabethton 0. Jeffers was solid with five completions but more importantly didn't throw an interception. And fumbles were not to be on this night for the Cyclone offense.
  "Everyone had a part in this win," VanHuss said. "Now we've got to get ready to play a very good Sullivan South football team. There are no gimmes in this league."