Cougars burst Cyclones bubble

By Allen LaMountain
ASST SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   On Senior Night at Brown-Childress Stadium the Elizabethton Cyclones came out of the dressing room as high as a helium balloon. Unfortunately, the Sullivan Central Cougars were armed with a tack.
   Two fourth quarter touchdowns enabled the Cougars to burst the Elizabethton bubble and upset the Cyclones 16-6 on Thursday night.
   "It's my responsibility to get the team ready to play, and I didn't do that," admitted Cyclones head coach Tommy Jenkins. "(Central) did some things that we needed to adjust to and we didn't do that. Central did a great job of taking the outside run away, but the bottom line is we have to put points on the board to win."
   Betsy scored on it's opening drive on a two-yard run by tailback Walter Brown to cap off a seven-play 71 yard drive to give the Cyclones a 6-0 advantage when Craig Estep's PAT was wide.
   Central retaliated by going on a seven-play drive of their own that stalled at the EHS 22 yard line. From there kicker Luke Hawk drilled a 39-yard field goal to cut the Cyclones lead in half at 6-3.
   Neither team could crack the scoreboard the rest of the first half as Central punted on five consecutive possessions, but stayed in the ballgame with superb tackling and a swarming defense.
   "We worked on our tackling all week especially where Brown was concerned," said Central QB/S John LeSueur. "He can break a big play on you at any time. We worked hard on looking at his waist, not going for fakes, and making sure stops."
   The Cougar defense came out fired up in the second half intercepting a Ryan Curtis pass to stop Betsy's opening drive of the second half.
   "Sullivan Central did a great job up front tonight," said Curtis who completed seven-of-19 passes for 75 yards on the night. "They really had a good read on our no-huddle. Probably the best we have seen this year. I had a couple of plays where I was saying to myself, 'What are you doing?' especially on that interception."
   Jeff Beverly gobbled up a pass that tipped off the hands of TE Vince Redd at the Cyclone eight yard line to give Central possession of the football.
   Brown fumbled on the next EHS possession to set up Central on the 44 yard line, but LeSueur was picked off by EHS safety Michael Porter to give Betsy possession at the 28-yard line.
   After forcing a Cyclone punt the Cougars took command by handing the ball to fullback Ryan Davenport who responded by carrying the football seven times in a 12-play, 61-yard touchdown drive.
   "The offensive line blocked great," said Davenport who finished with 37 yards on 12 tries, but what at his best on the scoring drive. "They made holes you could drive a truck through, and we gave it our all out there."
   Zach Frye finished off the drive with a three yard blast to give Central it's first lead of the game at 9-6 with 4:46 left in regulation.
   The Cougar defense then stopped the Cyclones on downs deep in the EHS end of the field at the Betsy 31 yard line giving Central a chance to put this contest away.
   LeSueur ran a quarterback draw from the eight yard line to paydirt to cap off the five-play drive and seal Central's biggest win of the season.
   "Elizabethton's offense is a big-play offense," said LeSueur. "We just wanted to try and keep it close and we just held in there. On the drive that gave us the lead we just ran the ball right at them. We knew we couldn't beat them outside so we went right at them. This is a huge win for us, it puts us in second place and gives us a burst toward the playoffs."
   The win vaults the Cougars to 4-2 in the Mountain Lakes Conference, and for now EHS falls to third with a 4-2 MLC mark, but overall Betsy has the advantage with a 6-3 overall mark to Central's 4-5 mark.
   "I thought we would play well, but I didn't know about winning," said Cougar head coach Mike Hooks. "I knew we would have to get some breaks, and our defense kind of made some for us. Basically what we did was shut down the running game and hope for the best against the pass.
   "We knew we would have to put pressure on the quarterback and we did all the things we needed to do. We played well, and I feel like we have played like this all year, we just haven't had the results that we had tonight."
   Elizabethton was hurt in the first half as a touchdown run by Brown was called back for an illegal motion penalty, and the Cyclones never came close to scoring again.
   "Having that run called back hurt us," Jenkins said. "That burst our bubble a little bit, and would have given us a lift, but we were in it right up until the end. Central took us by surprise a little bit in the first half, and you have to give them credit."
   For the Cyclones the game next week at Unicoi County takes on new meaning as a win - coupled with wins by Central and Sullivan South - would put Betsy in a three-way tie for second place with each team holding a 5-2 conference mark.
   That scenario would give EHS second place based on better overall record, but Jenkins didn't want to talk about scenario's saying, "It's out of our hands right now. We lost tonight, but if we take care of business at Unicoi next week, try to win that game, then we'll see what happens."