Cyclone victory one to talk about for years to come

Published 5:20 pm Monday, August 20, 2018

When the final three seconds ran off the clock Friday night inside Citizens Bank Stadium, and a quick glance at the scoreboard showed the Elizabethton Cyclones had finally conquered a team in Science Hill that they have been trying to solve since 2009, only one word quickly came to mind—finally.
Finally, the Cyclones had broken through a barrier that they had been so close to overcoming in years past, only to fall dejectedly short of in that span.
However, not this night. No, Friday night belonged not only to the “Boys in Orange” that found a way to work through adversity trailing 11 points late in the game but to many others as well.
The game belonged to all those previous teams that had worked so hard and came up short. It belonged to head coach Shawn Witten and his staff that have studied film for countless hours developing game plans to sway a win on their side of that column.
And it belonged to Cyclone Nation who were so hungry to see their beloved Cyclones earn something they had worked so hard to accomplish.
So, it was no wonder why tears streamed freely down the cheeks of those young teenagers, coaches, cheerleaders, band, family, and fans alike when the final horn sounded setting off a state championship-type celebration.
In a rush to meet a deadline on a game that covered nearly the time frame of an NFL contest, there was much that had to be left out that was worthy of being noted.
Pregame festivities
The Elizabethton Touchdown Club made sure that the team would enter like victors into a Roman Coliseum setting up a large tailgate inside the fences next to the school parking lot, followed by a grand entrance with a Cyclone walk to the field with cowbells ringing out throughout the walk.
One could see how the welcome caused players’ heads to be held high ready to meet whatever challenge was ahead.
Great fan turnout
With fans starting to arrive around 5 p.m., it was easy to see that seating was going to be at a minimal for the game and that proved to fruition as at game time there was hardly a seat left to be found.
The Cyclone fans should take notice that energy is created by the presence of a large fan base and as head coach Shawn Witten said later this is needed each contest.
Early Cyclone success
Looking across the huge, junior college-sized Hilltopper line, initial thoughts may have been that how could the Cyclones have a big night against this mammoth team.
However, after each team played to a scoreless first quarter, it didn’t take long for the Cyclones to bring fans to their feet in the second quarter.
In a four-minute time span, the Cyclones rapid fired 17 points on the scoreboard that for the moment stunned the visiting sideline.
A Corey Russell 2-yard blast, Jaxton Holly’s 33-yard field goal, and a Carter Everett pinpoint pass to a leaping Parker Hughes along with two Holly point-after attempts had Citizen’s Bank Stadium rocking for anyone wearing orange.
-Weathering the storm
Anyone that knows anything about head coach Stacy Carter, knows the long-time coach knows how to get things turned around for his ‘Topper squad.
Trailing 17-0, Carter went to a hurry-up offense that allowed no time for the Cyclones to make personnel changes at important intervals to slow down the ‘Topper offense.
The result was a 28-point roll that started just before the half with a score that sliced the lead to ten points at the intermission and ended when the Cyclones finally scored again with only 4:37 left to play.
O’ ye of little faith
When Science Hill scored with 6:45 remaining to play making it 28-17, about half of the Cyclone cheering section began to evaporate possibly with the thoughts of another loss looming and possibly partly because of a light drizzle that began to fall.
Regardless of the reason, those that chose to remain to the very end more than compensated as they infused the Cyclone sideline with an unbelievable and unwavering amount of energy that carried through to the end.
The rally begins
While there may have been many that doubted, there was a sideline of believers that had not given up and with rolled-up sleeves dug down deep to go to work.
Everett got things rolling with a 1-yard plunge set up by a huge 52-yard double-pass completion as Everett tossed to Russell behind the line of scrimmage and Russell unleashed a pass to Hughes who wound up being wrapped up at the ‘Topper 10-yard line.
The 2-point conversion failed but the Cyclones still had life trailing 28-23 with 4:37 left.
Elizabethton added two more scores in the final three minutes of play as Hughes reeled in a 35-yard touchdown pass and Russell scored on a 2-yard dash with 1:12 remaining.
A 2-point conversion failed on the first score, and Holly booted his third PAT of the night on the final score.
A defensive uprising
The outcome of the game would not have been possible without the Cyclone defensive unit getting a second life down the stretch.
It was quite possible that the ‘Topper coaching staff thought their offensive line had done enough to wear on the smaller Cyclone defense and that may have led to Coach Carter electing to go for not one but two fourth downs in the final deciding minutes.
The gamble didn’t pay off as running back Chris Thomas was stopped on a fourth-and-3 from the ‘Topper 27 resulting in a 1-yard gain and turn over on possession to ‘Betsy.
One of the biggest plays by Russell all night may have come on the defensive side of the football. The senior defensive back squared up on quarterback AJ Stewart on fourth-and-5 from the Science Hill 25-yard line and laid the quarterback out for only a 1-yard gain to the 26-yard line to get the ball back for Elizabethton for the decisive touchdown.
It fitted that senior defensive lineman Jared Grindstaff put the finishing touches on the win with a big sack of Stewart that set off the celebration.
By the numbers
The only numbers that count are the ones on the scoreboard at the end of the game, and that was a good thing in this one as the ‘Toppers outgained Elizabethton 444-227 behind Thomas who gained 191 yards on 32 carries.
For the Cyclones, Austin Outland had one carry for 4 yards, Russell added 34 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns, freshman Bryson Rollins had a great first varsity game with 32 yards on eight carries while Everett toted the leather nine times for 6 yards and a score.
Everett finished 11-of-20 passing with no interceptions covering 151 yards in his final game against the ‘Toppers. Russell added the one toss for 52 yards.
On the receiving side, Evan Perkins totaled four catches for 42 yards, Hughes reeled in five catches covering 96 yards and two scores, Brayden Holly had a spectacular snare at the goal line for a 9-yard gain, and Russell caught one pass for 2 yards.
Coming up
The Cyclones hope to continue strong to start off the season after the win as they play host to South Greene on Friday night before hosting Sullivan East the following week.
Witten said earlier that he hopes that his troops can work to a 3-0 record before having to travel to Gray and take on a stout Boone team in week 4.
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