We believe in them… Jr. Cyclones pull out a victory in final seconds, 17-14

Published 1:02 am Saturday, September 7, 2019

For 19:11 of Thursday’s football game between the T.A. Dugger Jr. Cyclones and the Boone Middle Trailblazers, the host Jr. Cyclones appeared to be sleepwalking through the contest.
They weren’t tackling like they normally tackle and the offense was lackadaisical with a prime point being their inability to punch the football over the goal line from the one-yard line out on four straight attempts as the horn sounded to end the half.
Meanwhile, the visitors from Gray was imposing their will taking advantage of a 65-yard touchdown pass to Caden Murphy on a fourth-down play and then converting the two-point conversion as Braden Blankenship bullied the ball into the end zone to give Boone an 8-0 lead that they made stand until the half.
Coming out of the locker room, Boone added a second score when Blankenship once again rumbled over the goal line from the seven-yard line to make the score 14-0 after a failed conversion with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
It was from that point that the kids from T.A. Dugger slapped the Sandman out of Brown-Childress Stadium and awoke with urgency to turn the game completely around.
Jeriah Griffin pumped new life into his team when he took a handoff straight through the heart of the Boone defense and galloped 30 yards to pay dirt with 3:42 showing on the third-quarter clock.
Caleb Campbell’s point-after attempt was no good and the scoreboard read 14-6 at that point.
When the horn sounded to end the quarter, there was a feeling that momentum had swung back to the black and orange sideline as the defense was playing with some pop and the offensive began to click.
Gary Wallace did his part to help the Jr. Cyclones get back into the game with some hard-nosed running and then finished off a Jr. Cyclone drive from two yards out just eight seconds into the fourth quarter.
When quarterback Gib Maupin hit Eli Blevins on the two-point conversion, it was a new game as the Jr. Cyclones had scraped back to make it a 14-14 contest.
Both teams made stands on defense until the Jr. Cyclones got the football back on a short field after Boone became its own worst enemy with two straight penalties for holding forcing a punt from almost in their own end zone.
The Cyclones went back to the ground and moved the ball for a couple of back-to-back first downs before electing to go to the airways. When the drive stalled out at the seven-yard line with 43.7 seconds remaining in the game, Jr. Cyclone head coach Brock Pittman made one of his biggest decisions of the season when he called on Campbell to attempt a 22-yard field goal.
With the Jr. Cyclone fans and sidelines holding their breath, Campbell calmly put a solid foot into a perfectly snapped and held football to split the uprights perfectly down the middle to give TAD its first lead of the contest at 17-14.
Still a matter of making sure that the kickoff didn’t result in a score, the Jr. Cyclones did their job and fended off any further Blazer attempt to win the contest 17-14.
“Give credit to Boone – they have a good football team,” said Pittman referencing the bad opening half of play. “It was just one guy here and there. It was a missed block on one play and another missed block on another play, a receiver dropping a ball, and a quarterback making a bad decision.
“Hopefully they learned a lot tonight.”
Pittman was asked about his decision to kick the field goal instead of going for a first down on fourth and one.
“I decided to kick the field goal although he (Campbell) hadn’t kicked well the entire game on kickoffs or anything,” Pittman said. “When it came down to it however we work hard all summer so when it comes down to it, we trust them.
“It turned out to be a good decision to kick the field goal. It was one of those things where I looked at him and asked him if he could make it and he said yes sir. So I said let’s go with it then.
The coach was also asked about the frustration of not being able to punch the ball over just before the half.
“It was just terrible execution,” Pittman stated. “We have got to get better there. If we can’t score from the one or two-yard line we don’t deserve to win. 
“It was good for us to be in a close game and have a comeback win. It’s good for us. They know that they are beatable, but if we come out and play like we are capable we can beat anyone.”
With the win, the Jr. Cyclone varsity team stands at 3-0 on the season and will travel to Greeneville next week for another big Big 6 Conference showdown.

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