Defense delivers for EHS

By Tim Chambers
star staff

  It's a rivalry that's older than dirt, but when Elizabethton and Greeneville hook up on the football field, the fans are in for a treat. Since 1953 it's been an old-fashioned backyard brawl between the orange and black and green and white, with Friday's night's contest offering no change.
  Behind a rock solid effort by the 'Betsy defense and mistake-free football from the offense, the Cyclones held on for an 8-6 win over the Greene Devils at Burley Stadium in a 4A non-conference affair.
  "This was a complete team effort," stated Cyclone head coach Eddie Pless. "We had several different guys step up and make good plays that helped our football team."
  The first half was a defensive struggle as the Cyclones managed only two first downs. 'Betsy used a 14-yard completion from Weston Jeffers to Nathan Bishop and some hard nose running by James Peterson, Brent Shaver and Jake Berkley to reach the 29-yard line, but Brian Freeman missed wide left on a 46-yard field goal attempt for the only Cyclone scoring threat.
  Greeneville managed to move the ball inside the 30 but came up empty on a 45-yard Garren Perkins field goal attempt that fell short. 'Betsy managed just 50 yards of total offense in the first half.
  The Cyclones came out hotter than a big plate of Kent Williams' lasagna in the second half, marching 64 yards on 11 plays for the lead. Jeffers found Derek Nave in the flat for an 18-yard gain, followed by two strong runs from Berkley.
  Ryan Kennedy made a circus catch for eight yards that kept the drive alive as the Cyclones looked to make a statement on their opening possession. The big play came when Levi Hooten snagged an 18-yard grab from Jeffers that placed the ball on the one-yard line.
  Jeffers capped off the drive by lunging in from the one for a 6-0 advantage.
  "We tried to control the ball and not make mistakes tonight," said Jeffers. "The line did a good job tonight and our defense kept giving us good field position."
  Coach Pless and offensive coordinator Steve McKinney decided to gamble on the extra-point attempt, and did it to perfection. Ryan Kennedy went from holder to passer, finding Mitchell Blevins open for the two-point conversion. This play would prove big in the latter stages of the game.
  "It feels so good to beat Greeneville," said Blevins, who had to sit our his junior season. "This is a big win for our football team."
  The Devils managed to move the football down to the 19 on their next possession, but missed by inches wide left on a 36-yard field goal try.
  While the offense sputtered, it was the orange and black defense that rose to the occasion. At the 8:45 mark, Greeneville marched to the three, but a gut-busting tackle from Steven Bowers caused a fumble and Blevins was there to pounce on the loose pigskin.
  "Our entire defense was getting after it tonight," Bowers said. "I just tried to make a good play because we were not going to let them score and take the lead."
  Elizabethton tried to control the clock during the last six minutes of the fourth quarter, and did a good job at running off valuable seconds. A huge eight-yard run by Shaver kept the drive alive before a 'Betsy punt with 3:15 remaining in the game.
  Back came the Greene Devils behind a 17-yard completion from Michael Lollar to B.J. Washington and some elusive runs from Brandon Gash. A pass interference call, the only penalty of the game committed by Elizabethton, placed the ball at the three. For three straight plays the 'Betsy defense was rock solid, with Nave stopping Gash in his tracks on two occasions.
  On fourth and three, Gash (26 carries, 180 yards) scooted around the right side for the score, pulling Greeneville within two at 8-6. On the two-point try a sea of orange and black was there to crash into Gash as the 'Betsy band broke out the school fight song, much to the delight of the crowd.
  Jeffers was 4 of 6 passing for 56 yards with no interceptions. Peterson carried 13 times for 54 yards while Shaver got a valuable 28 yards on eight carries. Bishop, Hooten, Nave and Kennedy each had a catch for Elizabethton.
  Nave tallied 16 stops to lead the Cyclones defense while Charles Peters turned in a good performance with 10 tackles. Berkley recorded seven hits while Logan Hyatt, Justin Connor, Matt Fox, Stephen Bowers, Mitchell Blevins and David Lyons cashed in on five each.
  "We haven't beaten Greeneville very much in the past, so this is a great feeling," Nave said. "It feels so good to get my first win over them."
  EHS coach Richard VanHuss was proud of the defensive effort by the Cyclones.
  "The past three games this team has played their tails off," VanHuss said. "I am proud of the effort they continue to give."
  Added Pless: "The fact that we played nearly mistake free proved big tonight in our win. We had only one penalty the entire game and never turned the ball over.
  "We look to improve each week because these kids want to get better every game. They gave everything they had tonight for 48 minutes. We beat a very talented football team."
  Elizabethton entertains undefeated Sullivan East in a homecoming contest at 7:30 next Friday night. The annual homecoming parade will being at 6.