Cyclones declaw Cougars

By Allen LaMountain
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

   BLOUNTVILLE -- Junior quarterback Ryan Curtis passed for a career-high 232 yards and four touchdowns as the Elizabethton Cyclones continued their winning ways with a convincing 42-13 win over Sullivan Central on Friday night at the Cougars Den.
   EHS improved to 4-2 in Big Eight Conference play and now stand 5-4 overall, and in the process, clinched a playoff spot. Central fell to 2-4 and 2-7 overall and were eliminated from playoff contention.
   "We get Boone next week, but a win only helps Johnson County," said Central head coach John Thomas. "Tonight was a replay of how our whole season has gone, with turnovers and such. I felt like we won the first half battle, but then (EHS) goes and scores twice in the last minute and a half."
   Both squads struggled offensively in the first half until Curtis found Wandell wide open in the Central secondary and tossed a 30-yard scoring strike to the big wideout for a 7-0 Cyclone advantage.
   Wandell had lined up wide in the Cyclone set, but was completely ignored by the Cougars defenders and Curtis simply tossed a two-yard pass that Wandell took the rest of the way.
   Then, backed up deep in their own end, Elizabethton took a calculated gamble on the last play of the half as Curtis went back to pass and just threw the ball as far as he could down the field where Wandell ran under it. Wandell then out-leaped Central cornerback Chris Ferrell for the ball and raced the final 30 yards untouched on an 81 yard pass play to end the half and give Betsy a 14-0 lead.
   "The guy that was on me kind of stopped, and I knew how much time there was left, so it was either I would catch it or knock it down." Wandell said.
   "That catch really gave them a shot in the arm," Thomas said. "And then we messed up to open the second half and it was pretty much over. But I credit my guys for their attitude this season, this bunch never quits."
   Sophomore Bill Simthong recovered the second half kickoff as kicker Craig Estep hit a pop-fly to about the Central 20-yard line where the ball took a backward bounce and Simthong pounced on it to set up EHS on the Central 24-yard line.
   On second down Curtis found Lester Bailey on a curl pattern in the endzone to give the Cyclones a 21-0 lead, and the rout was on.
   Central quarterback John LeSeuer capped a seven-play, 72-yard drive with a 15-yard run to make it a 21-7 contest, but as quickly as they scored they gave it right back to the Cyclones.
   Curtis hit Wandell with a 54-yard bomb on the second play from scrimmage to take a 28-7 lead as the fourth quarter opened.
   After his early season struggles Curtis has been on fire in recent weeks and said of his resurgence, "Andy has worked with me, and helped me a lot," Curtis said referring to brother and former Cyclone standout Andy Curtis. "The offensive line has done a real good job of coming together the last four or five weeks, and giving me time to throw."
   Curtis now has 13 touchdown passes for the season with one contest remaining.
   The Cyclones next tossed in a bit of deception as Jason Grace took the snap on a fake punt and rambled 34 yards for a first down, keeping another Cyclone scoring drive alive. Grace capped the drive with an 18-yard scoring run as Betsy opened up a 35-7 advantage.
   "I said last week that if Jason Grace is on the field he plays all out," commented Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins. "Jason's a proud warrior and he'll play anywhere we ask him to play. He just wants to be on the football field and it doesn't matter where we ask him to line up."
   The Cyclones may be forced to shift Grace to tailback as Walter Brown suffered a possible fractured right ankle in the second period. Brown was taken to Holston Valley Hospital for x-rays.
   Simthong made another big play as he recovered a fumble on the ensuing Cyclone kickoff and raced 35-yards to paydirt, giving EHS a 42-7 lead.
   "I have to give it up to Lester (Bailey), he made the hit that knocked the ball loose," Simthong said. "The ball took a good bounce right to me and all I could see was the endzone."
   Ryan Bos scored for Central late on a two-yard plunge for the final tally of the contest.
   Cyclone notes : Both Brown and defensive tackle Matt Myers suffered leg injuries in the game and both could miss the season finale against Unicoi County. Wandell suffered a bone bruise in his right ankle, but returned to the game, scoring all three of his touchdowns after the injury. Sophomore OL Jake Jenkins has done a solid job up front since his insertion into the lineup.