Cherokee bulldozes Elizabethton from state playoffs, 25-13

By Ivan Sanders
STAR STAFF
isanders@starhq.com

   Tears and sweat stained the turf while memories of many gridiron battles raced through the minds of the 20 seniors that stood in awed silence at a scoreboard that displayed the final score of the Elizabethton Cyclones' hard-fought battle with the visiting Cherokee Chiefs.
   Using a pounding offensive balance of bruising running backs Chris West and Brian McMillian, the fourth place Chiefs from Region II extended its season for one more game by handing the Mountain Lakes conference champion Cyclones a solid 25-13 defeat on Friday night on Dave Rider Field before a sparse crowd of supporters for a Cyclone football contest.
   "I am very satisfied with our performance tonight because we did the things we wanted to accomplish by keeping (Lester) Bailey in check and running the ball up the middle on offense," stated Cherokee coach Mike Sivert.
   "We received great efforts on both sides of the ball and have been able to take advantage of an opportunity to play one more football game this season."
   The Chiefs wasted little time setting the tempo for the game, as Cherokee took possession on its own 41 and appeared poised to punch the ball in from the ten yard line on a 12-play drive that ended when EHS stiffened and slammed the door on fourth down to take over possession at its own ten yard line.
   After picking up only four yards on three downs, the Cyclones sent in its thunder-footed punter, Brandon Blevins on fourth down. The Chiefs used a steamroller charge up the middle to block Blevins punt with Austin Allbright wrapping up the ball in the Cyclone end zone for the early score.
   When McMillan's boot traveled through the uprights, Cherokee led the contest 7-0. The edge stood for the entire first quarter, with both teams touching the pigskin at least a couple of times in the opening stanza.
   Elizabethton finally managed to break the goal line 16 seconds into the second quarter when Justin Grace used determined running to power in from six yards out to even the scoring ledger. Grace added an additional seven yards on a fourth down in the series to keep the Cyclones scoring drive proceeding.
   Cherokee wasted little time by responding to the Cyclone score. Taking possession of the ball on the Chiefs 33-yard line after a five-yard facemask penalty against the Cyclones, Cherokee marched the length of the field on 15 plays behind the bullish running of West to take a 13-7 lead on a West four-yard score.
   The half came to an end with Cherokee maintaining the 13-7 advantage.
   The Cyclones received the second half kickoff and were forced to punt when its drive stalled. The Chief receiver mishandled Blevins punt, and Grace pounced on the ball at the CHS 16-yard line, putting the Cyclones in business.
   Bailey covered the distance on three carries to knot the score at 13-13 with 8:05 left in the third period. Freeman's extra point was blocked, but the Cyclones looked to grab a little momentum from the score.
   On the ensuing kickoff, Bailey probably had the hit of the year, as he simply flattened Anthony Sensabaugh on the return. The hit brought the Cyclone crowd to its feet and temporarily ignited a fire under the defense.
   The fire was quenched moments later when quarterback Josh Goan found Sensabaugh over the middle for a 35-yard scoring toss with three minutes left in the third period for a 19-13 Cherokee edge.
   After the score, the Chief defense tightened as Elizabethton was forced to go for a first down, facing a fourth and five from the Cherokee 43-yard line. Getting only two yards on a Bailey carry, the Chiefs were looking to nail the coffin shut on the Cyclones season with 6:59 remaining to play on the turnover on downs.
   West lofted the final flaming arrow into the Cyclones wagon, as the 6-2, 230 pound back out raced the Cyclone defense to the end zone on a 51-yard scoring jaunt on third down. The two-point conversion failed, but the Chiefs already had the Cyclones on its heels trailing by two scores with a short amount of time remaining in the game and the season.
   The Cyclones showed the same resilience it has all season by trying to regroup and come back, but the deficit and the Chief defense was just too much for the orange and black to overcome. The Chiefs took the 25-13 victory and will now face a rematch against the Greeneville Green Devils in Rogersville next week.
   "We came up here knowing what we needed to do to win this game and we did," said West after the contest. "When we really sensed that we could win, the whole team just played that much harder."
   For Coach Tommy Jenkins of the Cyclones, the loss was tough but the fact the Cyclones proved so many people wrong during the season was the crowning glory for this team and the 20 seniors.
   "We talked before the game about how proud of them we were for their accomplishments during the season," said Jenkins. "Nobody gave us a chance to win the conference championship, especially after the Sullivan East game, but this team and coaches pulled together and got the job done."
   Cyclone Notes: The Cyclone faithful said goodbye to 20 seniors that have contributed in a tremendous way in their four years wearing the orange and black. Showing an undaunted Cyclone pride, these young men weathered many storms but came out proven and true.
   The seniors are as follows: Lester Bailey, Brad Osborne, Michael Eggers, Ben Fields, Jordan Bray, Craig Estep, Adam Turley, Cody Nidiffer, Justin Grace, Brandon Blevins, Cody Bunton, Kelly Adkins, Josh Broyles, Frank Hardy, Cody Fair, Clinton Vannoy, David Anderson, Daniel Wagner, Jake Jenkins, and Evan Lindauer.
   Coach Jenkins departs Sunday for John Hopkins Hospital where he will undergo surgery to remove a benign tumor in the pancreas area. His strength and courage while awaiting the uncertainty of his health served as an encouragement to those who have looked up to him and was most assuredly the driving force behind this year's success in the Cyclone football program.
   Prayers for Coach Jenkins during his hospital stay and recovery will be much appreciated and needed.