TAD bows to Jr. 'Toppers in season finale

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
JOHNSON CITY--T.A. Dugger had an excellent start in its contest against the Jr. Hilltoppers Thursday evening at Spurrier Field, but its hold on the lead slipped briefly before the half, and Science Hill eventually took control for a 38-24 win.
Science Hill scored the first touchdown, but the Jr. Cyclones (3-3) retaliated strongly in their season-ending contest.
Jake Peters dealt Science Hill a hefty blow when he ran an early touchdown, and followed through with the two-point conversion, boosting TAD to an 8-6 lead. He scored again on a 60-yard drive that didn't end until he stepped into the end zone.
TAD quarterback Wes Anderson threw a pass to Wendell Loving for the extra points, and the boys from Elizabethton appeared to be in control of the game at 16-6.
"It started out pretty good," said T.A. Dugger coach John Oakley. "Special teams had some problems in the first half. Overall, I'm very proud of the effort."
In the few minutes before halftime, things began to go wrong for the Jr. Cyclones. Science Hill returned a punt for 45 yards, raking in a touchdown and the conversion in the process.
With the Jr. Hilltoppers trailing the Jr. Cyclones by a mere two points, TAD fumbled the kickoff return, which was recovered by Science Hill.
Bo Carter pushed Science Hill's Solomon Dunnah back five yards, but Dunnah and Ross Isabell quickly regained double the negative yards before the second quarter ended.
After the half, the Jr. Cyclones fanned out to receive the kickoff, and Peters returned it for five yards. However, TAD lost the ball on a fumble the following play, and Science Hill pounced on it again.
Diante Grey moved the ball 12 yards for Science Hill, and after a collaboration of effort from Dunnah, Corey Brown, and himself, Grey rushed the final nine yards for a touchdown. The conversion succeeded, placing Science Hill back in the lead.
On Dugger's possession, Peters moved the ball four yards, and a penalty against Science Hill made the down for the Jr. Cyclones. Two penalties worth 10 yards against Dugger made a 20-yard gap from the line of scrimmage and the marker, causing them to miss their next down.
The beginning of the fourth quarter yielded a 32-yard rush by Science Hill's Dunnah, and Grey soon ran it across the line on a six-yard touchdown carry. Jr. Hilltopper quarterback Tomas Garcia faked the handoff, and bounded into the end zone for a lead of 30-16.
Wendell Loving returned the kickoff for 20 yards, dragging several Science Hill defenders from his jersey the last few steps. T.A. Dugger followed up with an 11-yard Anderson-to-Loving pass, but another pass landed in the hands the Jr. Hilltoppers.
A carry for 18 yards from Dunnah and a twenty-yard rush from Grey put the Jr. Hilltoppers at the 11-yard line, and Dunnah finished the job with a touchdown. Ross Isabell's conversion run succeeded, pushing Science Hill's score to 38.
Anderson knew they had to move the ball in big jumps, so he found Loving with a pass that developed into a 57-yard touchdown. Bo Carter tried for the two points and made it safely.
"I'm very proud of the kids all season," Oakley said. "They played hard. One of our main problems this year was depth. We don't have a whole lot of depth, but I was proud of the way they hung in there."
Peters kicked an onside kick, which was picked up by Elizabethton, but lost several plays later on a fumble that Science Hill recovered. Garcia took a knee, winning the game 38-24 for the Jr. Hilltoppers.
"I'm sorry we couldn't have ended the season better than we did," Oakley said. "It's a great group of guys, and they're going to be awesome when they get to high school."