Bailey, EHS derail 'Horns


Photo By Kristen Luther
Cyclone tailback Lester Bailey evades Johnson County nose tackle Daniel Cranford.

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
In the game that could quite possibly be the deciding factor in the Mountain Lakes Conference, the Fighting Cyclones, driven by Lester Bailey, defeated one of their biggest season rivals, the Johnson County Longhorns, 35-22 at Rider Field.
Elizabethton's offense ripped holes in the famous Longhorn defense just large enough for Bailey to speed through with four touchdown runs.
Before Friday night's game full of penalties on both sides, Johnson County was one step ahead of Elizabethton, with matching 3-1 conference records, but a 4-3 total record over the Cyclones' 3-4. However, now Elizabethton boasts a 4-1 record in the conference, while knocking the Longhorns down to a 3-2.
What happened? "Lester Bailey happened," said Johnson County coach Mike Atwood. "We just couldn't stop him. We had said all week in practice that all we had to do was stop him, and we felt like we had a good chance. He's just a great athlete and made some big plays. He killed us."
Despite the weight of the game, the action was toned down in the first quarter, giving each team had a chance to feel their opponent out. Both defenses stood firmly, allowing less than 30 rushing yards from both sides. Tony Smith gained 25 yards in three carries for Johnson County and Adam Turley caught three passes for fifteen, seven, and eight yards from Cyclone quarterback Weston Jeffers.
Daniel Cranford started the second quarter off with a 21-yard run, and Johnson County soon found themselves facing a fourth and six situation. Adam Turley broke up a Jeff Brinker pass to Jesse Jenkins, causing the Longhorns to miss their next down.
Lester Bailey opened up the next play with a touchdown run, breaking away for a 70-yard dash to the end zone, collecting a large chunk of his 209 rushing yards for the night. Brian Freeman kicked a successful extra point.
Not to be outdone, the Longhorns decided to show Elizabethton what they were made of when Tony Smith returned Craig Estep's kick for 72 yards, placing Johnson County on the Cyclone 8-yard line before he was tackled by Michael Eggers. Cranford and Brinker drove it to down to a yard, and Cranford leaped over the pack for the touchdown. Ian Prudhomme kicked the PAT for the Longhorns, tying the game at 7.
"They started out in something a little bit different, and I thought they made a good move starting out that way," said Elizabethton coach Tommy Jenkins of the Longhorns. "We discussed what we thought they might do, because we have pretty good speed on the outside."
Nathan Bishop caught Prudhomme's kick, and with the help of Levi Hooten, returned it for 30 yards. Justin Grace drove the ball 14 more yards, and after Jeffers threw an 11-yard pass to Ryan Kennedy, Bailey again took the Cyclones home on a 24-yard touchdown run. Elizabethton received a penalty for a personal foul, and had to kick the extra point from the 25-yard line, but Freeman cleared the goalposts again, bringing Elizabethton to the 14-7 lead.
"I knew if the line came up for it, I was going to get it. I was going to score," said Bailey. "The offensive line stepped up, the defensive line stepped up. All the players blocked right, tackled right, and came out ready to play."
Elizabethton's next score was set up by a turnover as Brinker fired a pass to Nathan Paisley, but Adam Turley jumped in to make the interception. Two penalties set the Longhorns back another twenty yards, and Bailey took advantage of the opportunity to make a third touchdown for twenty-three yards. The kick flew to the side, and the score settled at 20-7 in Elizabethton's favor.
"We had an exceptional team effort, when you throw in some individual efforts like what Lester Bailey did tonight, and some of the passes to Turley and these other guys," Jenkins said. "When these guys are running the ball that well, you've got good up-front line blocking."
A group effort from Smith, Paisley, and Cranford moved the Longhorns down to Elizabethton's two-yard line, and Brinker took it the final yards for a touchdown on a quarterback keeper. Prudhomme's kick sailed clear, and Johnson County's score drew within six points of Elizabethton at 20-14.
"I think Johnson County is well-coached, and I really mean that," said Coach Jenkins. "I think they'll make the adjustments. They double-teamed Adam Turley after he caught a couple balls, and that was a good move for them. There's always a gap - you can't cover everything, but I thought they had a good scheme. They played with a lot of heart, and it's hard hitting."
Turley made up for Prudhomme's fifty-yard kick on a 42-yard return, and Bray and Brad Osborne pushed the ball 14 more yards before the end of the quarter. On the opening play of the fourth, a familiar scene arose as Bailey rushed the ball 33 yards, scoring his fourth touchdown for the Cyclones. Jeffers found Ryan Kennedy in the endzone for the conversion, and Elizabethton jumped back up to a 28-14 lead.
The fourth quarter was full of penalties, and another Cyclone touchdown. Jeffers broke the Bailey roll, by taking it into the endzone from three yards out, and Freeman kicked the PAT, bringing the score to 35-14 for Elizabethton.
After a exchange of possessions, two Smith carries for nineteen and ten yards, and a ten-yard rush from Brinker helped move the Longhorns into the red zone. With 22 seconds left in the game, Brinker drove it in on two drives for four and three yards, scoring the final touchdown of the game for Johnson County. Brinker ran the conversion, bringing their score up to 22 against Elizabethton's 35.
"We felt like we could score three times, but we thought we could hold them to three scores," Coach Atwood said. "We thought it would come down to a kick or something late in the game. That's kind of how we thought it would play out, but we just didn't get the job done on defense, and had too many mental mistakes."
Coach Jenkins was thrilled to have won such an important game, and hopes his team continues to keep putting forth the effort that wins games. "I thought we played well on defense," he said. "All and all, I think it was a good team. We played well last week, and I think we played just a little bit better tonight. That's our goal - to keep improving just a little bit each week. That was a good ball game."