Cyclones defeat McMinn, 48-19

Published 12:55 am Saturday, November 5, 2016

Star Photo/Ivan Sanders Cyclone quarterback Corey Russell dives for an Elizabethton score.

Star Photo/Ivan Sanders
Cyclone quarterback Corey Russell dives for an Elizabethton score.

The great Harry Houdini wasn’t playing in Friday’s TSSAA first round playoff game at Citizens Bank Stadium, but another magician was putting on a show for those in the stands.
Feeding off Corey Russell’s 366 all-purpose yards showing and a defense that was hitting like a jackhammer, the Elizabethton Cyclones advanced to the second round of the playoffs by drilling the visiting McMinn Central Chargers from Englewood 48-19.
Elizabethton plays host next Friday to Christian Academy of Knoxville, a 56-34 winner over Region 1-3A third seed Pigeon Forge.
“We’ve talked about raising the level of our play, and each week we know it’s going to get extremely harder,” said Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten. “We had a tough challenge tonight defensively tackling big Jackson Long.
“We knew it was going to be tough, but we got off to a good start, and we just took it from there. It was a great effort by our kids because we were kind of unsure what our offense was going to look like tonight, but anytime we can score fast it puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
And score fast the Cyclones did as Russell electrified the crowd by returning the opening kickoff 73 yards to the Charger 20-yard line.
After a Jacob Turner carry of 14 yards, Russell crossed the goal line from four yards out for the first score.
Dylan Nordby’s point-after attempt was down the middle, and the Cyclones led 7-0 with 40 seconds off the clock.
After receiving the kickoff, the Cyclone defense pounded Long on his second carry to force a fumble pounced on by Tyson Vance at the McMinn Central 27-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, Russell connected with a wide open Evan Perkins on the 27-yard scoring strike for a 14-0 edge after Nordby’s kick.
Two Cyclone scores in 1:35 seconds of play.
Elizabethton added their third score of the opening quarter with 1:22 remaining in the quarter when senior running back Turner barreled over a Charger defender and rambled 24 yards for the score.
Nordby continued his excellent leg work for a 21-0 Cyclone lead.
The Cyclones christened the second quarter of action when Turner recorded his second rushing touchdown of the evening on a six-yard scamper. Nordby’s PAT put the Cyclone advantage at 28-0.
‘Betsy kept the scoring blitz on as Logan Norman got into the scoring act when he carried the pigskin over the goal line from five yards out to push the lead to 35-0 on Nordby’s kick with 5:56 remaining before the half.
After holding the Chargers to a three and out, EHS made quick work on their possession as Russell found wide receiver Conner Johnson on a short screen, and Johnson did the rest as he turned on the jets for a 41-yard scoring pass.
The scoreboard read 42-0 after Nordby’s sixth PAT of the half.
McMinn Central broke the goose egg on their side of the scoreboard just before the intermission when Long finally broke the plain on an eight-yard run.
The PAT failed and at the break, the Cyclones were in firm control leading 42-6.
Russell recorded his second touchdown toss of the night to tight end Evan Sewell for a 12-yard touchdown with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter with a running clock.
The extra point failed, and Elizabethton led 48-6.
McMinn Central added two more scores in the contest in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by Jake Crowder with the PAT by Matt Wells and another one-yard effort by Douglas Watts.
The two-point conversion failed on the second score to leave the final scoreboard reading 48-19.
Russell rushed for 105 yards on seven carries while Turner had a standup performance adding 77 yards on seven carries with the two scores.
From the quarterback position, Russell hit on 10-of-13 attempts covering 165 yards and three scores. Add into the equation the 73-yard kickoff return and two punt returns for 23 yards to make up his banner night of 366 all-purpose yards.
Johnson was on the receiving end of four passes covering 88 yards and a score. Turner also hauled in two passes for 36 yards giving him 103 all-purpose yards on the night.
Russell said the opening kickoff set the tone for the rest of the night.
“I think it did a little bit,” said Russell. “Just getting out there and getting the first play in is a big relief. Just getting out there and getting hit one good time— you are ready to go.
“It’s a little bit different transition playing quarterback, but I’ve played there a couple of times throughout the season. Everybody around me just made it easier.”
Even though Witten was elated with the win, he also admitted that the penalties and the small attention to detail were disconcerting from his team.
“The mishaps—that’s where we have to get a little sharper in practice,” added Witten. “Now is the time it’s more attention to details and focusing on the little things.
“It’s not so much of plays and X’s and O’s. It’s about the discipline and the checklist things that are going to get you beat at the end of the game.”
The kickoff next week will also be at 7 pm.

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