Cyclones' season ends in OT

By Allen LaMountain

   BRISTOL -- Brad Deal, Tennessee High's senior quarterback, rushed for 112 yards on just eight carries, but his biggest run of the night was his shortest.
   Deal closed out the Elizabethton Cyclones' football season with a one-yard plunge in overtime to give the Vikings a 20-14 win at Stone Castle on Friday night.
   The win puts Tennessee High (12-0) into round three of the TSSAA playoffs, where they will face the Morristown West Trojans next Friday night. Elizabethton (7-5), which came into the contest having won six straight, fell just short of returning home for next week's third round.
   "I'm very proud of these guys," said Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins. "We wanted to play next week very badly. But you can't take away from the heart these guys showed tonight."
   The Cyclones hung extremely tough in a back-and-forth, tightly-contested ballgame, but a tough call put their backs to the wall in overtime -- and they just couldn't hold back the tide any longer.
   After falling short on its possession in the overtime session, Tennessee High took over and on third down sent senior kicker Glenn Black in to attempt a 22-yard game winner.
   Lester Bailey and Neal Wandell crashed in hard from the corner and seemed to get a finger on the ball before brushing Black, who flopped to the ground. The resulting penalty put the ball on the two-yard line, and on second down Deal snuck in from a yard out.
   "The reason we went for the field goal on third down was if we had a bad snap we could try again on fourth down," said Viking head coach Greg Stubbs. "I think it was number 28 that roughed the kicker, I really didn't see it too well. They were crashing hard from the corner, but it was a roughing penalty for sure."
   EHS got off on the right foot on its opening possession as Ryan Curtis capped a six-play, 70-yard drive with a 50-yard touchdown strike to Bailey to put the Cyclones on top 7-0 early in the first period.
   "It was the same exact call we had against Cherokee," commented Curtis. "Lester's just so fast, all I had to do was throw it up there for him to go get. Tennessee High is a great football team, but I wish we could be playing next week."
   It looked like 'Betsy would extend its lead even farther when Wandell picked off a Deal pass on the Vikings' first possession to set EHS up at the Tennessee High 38-yard line.
   The Cyclones drove deep into Viking territory but were stopped when linebacker Ryan Baker sacked Curtis at the 17-yard line and 'Betsy turned it over on downs to Tennessee High.
   After gaining a first down at the 25-yard line, Deal faked a handoff inside to fullback Mark Messer, rolled to his left and found daylight. Deal flew through the hole, picked up a block and was gone. Seventy-five yards later Deal was in the end zone and the Vikings had tied the game at 7-7.
   An interception by Steven Hullander on a halfback option pass from Walter Brown gave the Vikes possession at the 36-yard line. Seven plays and 62 yards later Messer scored on a 13-yard blast up the gut to give Tennessee High a 14-7 lead at the 7:47 mark of the second period.
   'Betsy got the ball back but couldn't do anything with it and had to punt. On the play, however, the Vikings return man, Jason Norris, muffed the catch and Brown was there to recover for Elizabethton. On second down Curtis struck again as he hit Wandell with a 42-yard strike to tie the game at 14-14.
   The 'Betsy defense stood tall the remainder of the half, stopping Tennessee High on downs, as Josh Fair made a super play in the end zone to bat down a pass intended for an open Boodle Clark.
   Fair made a nice recovery on the play to get back in coverage and knocked the ball away at the last instant to save a touchdown.
   The Vikings' ground game allowed THS to control almost the entire third period, but the Cyclones withstood that challenge, eventually forcing a punt after the Vikings had converted twice on fourth down plays.
   "That last one was just a little too far to go for," said Stubbs. "One yard I may have gone for it, but it looked to me like a long two yards. We got a little frustrated with not getting any points out of having the ball for so long. We had guys open on pass plays, but the run was working so well, we just stuck to it."
   For the game Tennessee High rushed for 242 of its 265 yards of total offense, while the Cyclones had a tough time getting the running game going. EHS finished with just 102 rushing yards on the night. Brown led the way with 71 yards rushing for 'Betsy.
   Curtis had another solid passing game, throwing for 132 yards and two scores, but missed on a potential big play in overtime as Vince Redd couldn't hold on to Curtis' third-down bullet. Curtis was sacked three times by the blitzing, stunting Viking defense, but stood tall in the pocket and never got rattled.
   "Me and Vince had a bit of a mix up on the play," admitted Curtis, who knew he should have tossed up a jump ball down there, but was under a lot of pressure from a blitzing Baker on the play.
   On fourth down the Cyclones went for the touchdown instead of trying what would have been a 23- yard field goal. On the play Brown tried a sweep left that for a moment looked like it would be wide open, but the quick Viking defense stopped him two yards shy.
   In explaining his decision to forgo the field goal, Coach Jenkins said: "I didn't like the angle on the kick, and I didn't think that three points would win it for us. We didn't execute what we called, but give Tennessee High credit. They played a great game defensively."