Cyclones rip Blue Devils

By Allen LaMountain

   In a dominating first-half performance the Elizabethton Cyclones opened a 34-0 advantage on the Unicoi County Blue Devils, and ran away with a 40-14 decision that gives 'Betsy its fifth straight win.
   The Cyclones scored the first three times they touched the football and never looked back as they finished the regular season with a 6-4 overall mark and 5-2 record in Big Eight play.
   Unicoi, which started the season 3-1, lost six consecutive games to finish out of the playoff mix at 3-7 (2-5 Big Eight).
   "We're looking at a game like tonight as a momentum builder," said Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins. "I think we are playing better in every segment of the team. We're very glad to be playing somewhere next week."
   John David Jativa scored on a 22-yard pass from Ryan Curtis to cap a six-play, 79-yard drive to give 'Betsy a 6-0 lead.
   The Devils coughed up the ball on their first possession, which Cyclone Michael Porter recovered to set up EHS at the Blue Devils 28-yard line.
   Neal Wandell caught a touchdown pass on the Cyclones' first play from scrimmage after the fumble, but EHS failed on the two-point try to take a 12-0 advantage before the crowd was fully in their seats.
   EHS tailback Jason Grace got into the scoring act next after a short Unicoi punt, lugging the pigskin 12 yards to cap a three-play, 42-yard drive and stake 'Betsy to a 20 point lead.
   "The offensive line's blocking was awesome tonight," said Grace, who usually didn't encounter a tackler until he was five yards down field. "Being senior night tonight, there was a lot of emotion and pride on the line for us."
   Grace finished with 95 yards on 14 carries for his night's work.
   The Blue Devil offense was completely shut down by the first string Cyclone defense, generating just 19 yards of offense in the first half, as none of Unicoi's running backs could get anything going.
   "Our goal was to get a shutout tonight," Grace said. "The first unit got it, they couldn't run or throw on us."
   Lester Bailey was the next Cyclone to get into the scoring column as he took a punt at midfield and raced 50 yards for the score, breaking through a gang of Unicoi tacklers at the 10-yard line.
   Bailey had four punt returns for 96 yards on the night, and would have had two scores if not for stepping out of bounds at the four-yard line after another long return.
   Josh Fair caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Curtis as EHS extended to a 34-0 halftime lead.
   Curtis, who started the season slowly, threw three scoring passes in this contest to finish the season with 18 touchdown passes. Curtis also finished with 1,017 yards passing on the year.
   "Ryan threw a good pass," said Fair. "I had told Coach Pless that the play was there and they called it for me."
   The Cyclones continued to keep the pressure on Unicoi in the third quarter as Jativa caught a 19-yard touchdown, breaking through several would-be tacklers along the way as 'Betsy opened up a 40-0 lead.
   "Getting up by 12 points in the first few minutes of the game was big for us," said Jenkins. "We talked about trying to get control of the ballgame by halftime, and we did that. We got to play a lot of kids that don't get on the field much."
   The second string for 'Betsy didn't get in the end zone as Ben Fields was stopped a yard shy of scoring on a fourth-down play.
   Unicoi then went on a 99-yard drive in seven plays that saw quarterback Josh Hensley score with 30 seconds remaining for the final margin of victory.
   Unicoi's Michael Price scored earlier in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard strike from backup quarterback Hunter Sparks as the Blue Devils avoided being blanked.
   The only negative on this night for EHS was that it fumbled five times -- while only losing possession once -- and that has Jenkins concerned.
   "It's a great concern of mine, but we'll talk about it in practice and remind the guys how to handle the ball when running in traffic," he said. "We lost one scoring opportunity on a fumble and we can't afford to make those kinds of mistakes in the playoffs."