Cyclone freshmen stopped by Cougars

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It was somewhat expected that the Elizabethton freshman football team would close out its season by winning the conference title after going undefeated throughout the year.
   But nobody informed Sullivan Central of this, as the Cougars knocked off the Cyclones by a final of 34-6 at the Cougar den on Thursday night.
   "We didn't play well, but Sullivan Central has a good football team and the played better than us," said Elizabethton head coach Ryan Witten. "So hats off to them."
   The Cougars came out to score in the opening quarter, after a downfield completion from Michael Walsh to David Ball set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Nash.
   Sullivan Central found success through the air again in the second period, when Brian Clark came up with a reception on a long pass play from Walsh.
   "We were down just 7-0, then they got that long pass, and I think that kind of broke our back," Witten said. "That seemed to steamroll things and put us down 13-0."
   The Cougars capped off the drive with a pass from Walsh to Justin Miller in the end zone with 28 seconds left until half-time.
   Ryan Kennedy had a nice runback on the ensuing kickoff, but was stopped around the 35-yard line of the Cougars, where there wasn't enough time to make a score.
   Besides having a couple of pass completions from Weston Jeffers to Kennedy, the Cyclone offense had little success, as 'Betsy trailed 13-0 at the half.
   "I think we were expecting to play Tuesday and the kids were up, but I don't think we were unprepared," Witten said. "We were ready to go, but things just didn't happen for us."
   Elizabethon's defense stepped up by holding Central to a three-and-out to start the second half. The Cyclones obtained excellent field position on the punt with a 28-yard return coming from Kennedy.
   Three straight carries by Curtis McKeehan placed the ball down at the 2, where Jeffers then took it in on the quarterback sneak.
   The extra-point attempt by Adam Grindstaff was blocked, but the Cyclones had managed to pull within a touchdown.
   Elizabethton was starting to make another drive on its next series, but a fumble at midfield and recovery by Jordan Shipley turned the momentum back to the Cougars.
   Sullivan Central made it down inside the Cyclone 10, after a 27-yard sweep to the right by Brian Clark made it first-and-goal.
   The Cyclones caught a break, when Clark fumbled on the next play and James Peterson came up with the ball.
   However, Elizabethton was unable to stop the Cougars on their next possession as Clark scored on a sweep play from six yards out.
   "Elizabethton is a good football club, and they came out and fought hard, but things just seemed to go our way tonight," said Sullivan Central coach Michael Hoover.
   Walsh keyed the two-point conversion with a pass to Ball, putting Sullivan Central up 21-6 with 6:03 left in the game.
   The Cyclones were then unable to respond, after a toss from Walsh intended for Peterson was picked off by Nash.
   Sullivan Central capitalized again, with Miller pounding up the middle from three yards away to score.
   "Our line did a great job blocking, and we were able to get some breaks with a couple of big plays here and there, and I think that was the difference in the ball game," said Hoover.
   Elizabethton had trouble with its snaps on the next possession, as two consecutive plays resulted in major loss of yards and Central taking over at the Cyclone 17.
   The last score of the game came, when Tyler Tomlinson ran a 17-yard touchdown, breaking tackles and finding his way into the end zone.
   We've got two, three or four excellent running backs, and linemen that do a great job," Hoover said. "It all started with them in doing a good job up front."