Cyclones blast Sullivan East in freshman play

Photo by Dave Boyd
Matt Young (left) and John Ross (right) helped the Cyclone boys post a fourth-place finish.

By Marvin Birchfield
The Elizabethton High freshman team came out storming on Thursday. The Cyclones ripped through Sullivan East, blowing away the Patriots in a 45-7 final at Brown-Childress Stadium.
"We came out ready to play from the get-go," said Elizabethton coach Ryan Witten. "I told them that we're going to come out and dominate from the kickoff, so we put a whole game together and that's what happened."
It was a great opening start for the Cyclones as a nice, one-handed grab by Ryan Kennedy for a 30-yard gain on a pass from Preston Smith took them down to the Patriot 7-yard line.
Fullback Justin Harmon took it up the middle next play for the touchdown, with Chase Turley adding the extra-point for an early 7-0 EHS lead.
Elizabethton scored on its next possession when Brent Shaver scampered for a 55-yard touchdown.
"This week in practice I challenged the offensive line and told them that we were going to get back to the running game," said Witten. "We threw it against Dobyns-Bennett last week, and we decided to establish the run first this week, so the offensive line did a great job."
The Cyclones added the two-point conversion on a pass from Smith to Josh Guinn to increase their advantage to 15-0.
Elizabethton's defense was all over the field in the first half, as Shaver picked off a pass from Chris Eads for a 35-yard touchdown return.
"Usually I don't mess with the defense too much, but this week I went in with the defensive backs and Coach Jerry Jenkins had them ready to go," said Witten.
The Cyclones enjoyed a 22-0 lead by the end of the first period, and continued to add to their advantage during the second.
"It's hard when you get down like that, and as much as we try to say as coaches 'don't get your head down, we're still in it,' the air just goes right out of you when you start out that way," said Sullivan East coach Greg Beck. "Elizabethton is a good football team and they like to come out and put together drives early, so you've got to come out with the same kind of intensity or you'll get down and then deflate."
After finally making a first down on a pass from Eads to Austin Faber, the Elizabethton defense stepped up again.
Another interception by the Cyclones saw A.J. Burke make the return down to the Patriot 32 to set up a 24-yard field goal by Turley.
The Patriots had no success in moving their offense in the first half, as Harmon made a sack on Eads for a nine-yard loss.
"We brought the kids in sync and Coach Wagner believes in blitzing, and we were pressuring. It's hard to complete passes when you're on your back," said Witten. "Our defensive backs did a good job of staying with them. We were man-up the whole game."
With the second period coming to a close, Smith hooked up with Austin Taylor on a score with :26 left on the clock.
A slant over the middle picked up 16 yards, placing the ball at the 21, then Smith found Taylor down the left side to make it a 31-0 game heading into the locker room.
Sullivan East came out in the second half and went three-and-out on its first series of offense.
"Our offensive line is young, and as much as I can see it and say 'let's do it,' it's hard for those kids to do so," said Beck. "They're not understanding how to get their bodies in front of people and moving their feet, but it's just going to take more and more reps to get better."
A kick from inside the East end zone gave Elizabethton excellent field position at the Patriot 22.
Shaver busted a 21-yard run to get down to the 1, and Michael Westberry capped off the drive with a plunge across the goal line.
The Patriots finally put together a scoring drive on their second possession of the second half.
A 19-yard run from Brent Tester was followed up by a 23-yard run around the right end by Caleb Rumley to get the Patriots up on the board.
"Breaks haven't gone our way so far, and the way it looked in the second half I think these guys are finally figuring out what it takes to win a football game," said Beck. "I think the light bulb went off in the second half, and I think we'll be all right the rest of the season."
Anthony Todt added the extra-point for Sullivan East, which trailed 38-7 with 3:11 left in the third period.
"It's tough playing football so long and having to adjust, and some of it is my fault. This is my first year and I'm learning just like these kids are," said Beck. "I'll take as much of the credit for the loss as what I'll put on the kids."
Elizabethton enjoyed the last score of the game to start the fourth quarter.
A quarterback keeper by Smith and rollout to the right went for a 26-yard touchdown, giving the Cyclones a huge margin of victory and a record of 3-2 on the season.
"Everybody got a chance to play and 45 points is the most we've scored in all my career, and it was a great team effort," said Witten. "We've got three games left, and hopefully we'll continue to get after it."