Special teams key T.A. Dugger victory

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   Special teams play and a tough defense was the key to T.A. Dugger's success on Monday, as they slipped past Church Hill in a 14-8 final.
   "We didn't play very well but they did, and we played very sloppy and are lucky to win, for it wasn't very pretty but I'll take it," said TA Dugger coach John Oakley.
   The Jr. Cyclones held the Panthers offense to three first downs for the entire game, which came on one possession in a late second quarter drive.
   Church Hill received the ball first, which resulted in going three plays and out.
   The Cyclone defense made their presence felt early, when the first play from scrimmage ended up in a two-yard loss with Josh Hutchins making the stop on the Panther quarterback Shaun Anderson.
   The Panther's were forced to punt from their own 28 yard-line, which turned to disaster when Hutchins broke through the line for the block.
   The ball was picked up near the ten yard-line, where Drew Hyder rambled his way in for the score.
   "Special teams came through for us and played well tonight, and I thought our fullbacks ran good," said Oakley.
   The Cyclones added the two-point conversion on a pass from Preston Smith to line-man Travis Bishop who was an eligible receiver on the play.
   T.A. Dugger continued to dominate the Panthers on their next series, as they went three and out again.
   Church Hill was successful this time in getting the punt off, but their was still pressure being applied to kicker Keith Cradic.
   The Cyclones put together a long time consuming drive, which took up nearly a whole quarter's worth of action.
   Some nice carries from Nick McNeal and Brent Shaver, along with a passing attack by Smith drove the ball down inside the Panther 25 yard-line.
   Penalties was the issue of this drive though, as T.A. Dugger committed three for 40 yards.
   "Penalties killed us tonight, and we have to get that ironed out for we had people clipping, holding, blocking below the knees, and illegal line-man down field, so we have a long way to go," said Oakley.
   The Cyclones were faced with needing as many as 36 yards at one time, but a great catch from Josh Guinn falling down, and a clutch fourth down run by Shaver kept the drive alive temporarily.
   T.A. Dugger was not able to overcome a holding penalty, which resulted in turning the ball over on downs.
   The Panthers made some noise, when Anderson made a 38 yard scamper on a quarterback roll-out.
   Church Hill banged away with tailback Daniel Villegas, where he eventually crossed the goal with a ten-yard run off a counter trap play with 38 seconds left in the half, trailing 8-6.
   "We ran the ball well with our backs, and had a nice run from our quarterback, so we did better for this is a good Elizabethton team," said Church Hill coach William Kelley.
   The Cyclones came out throwing after returning the kick-off up to their own 35 yard-line.
   A long pass from Smith to Guinn looked like the Cyclones might score, but Guinn was wrestled down by Ray Carpenter at the 19 yard-line.
   Guinn fumbled before hitting the ground with Caleb Hommel making the recovery for the Panthers.
   Both teams didn't give an inch on defense in the third period, as only one first down was made by either team with the Cyclones picking up 13 yards on a run from McNeal.
   "We had to roll some people to cover deep in our secondary, and when we did they had to throw short, which was big for us," said Kelley.
   T.A. Dugger finally managed success in the final period of play, as they went 57 yards on seven plays.
   A.J. Burke led the way by running inside tackle capping off the drive with an eight yard touchdown.
   The Cyclones led 14-6 with 3:17 left in the game, as the Panthers were running out of time with no offensive threat.
   After a two incompletions and a five yard run from Bo Dykes, Church Hill has no choice but to go for the first on fourth down.
   Villegas was stopped and ran down from behind on a sweep to the right, with McNeal and Smith making the tackle.
   All the Cyclones needed was to run down the clock, but a fumble at mid-field and recovery by Jason Potter gave the ball back to the Panthers with one last opportunity left.
   Next play, Anderson attempted to hit Cradic with a pass to the side-line, but Hyder came up to make the pick and seal the victory for the Cyclones.
   "We're still young for most of the offense is made up of seventh graders, and we will get better for next year," said Kelley.