Rolling to their second straight… Cyclones toss South aside to earn back-to-back conference championships, 42-14
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
KINGSPORT – In a game that will be remembered by both sides for different reasons, the Elizabethton Cyclones made a swath through Death Valley at Sullivan South High School and left the Rebels topsy turvy with a convincing 42-14 win to run the Cyclones season record to 9-0 and earn their 24th straight win.
The win also marked the Cyclones second consecutive Region 1 4A title as the Cyclones have taken care of Greeneville and South and now look toward finishing with their consecutive perfect regular season next Friday night at Citizens Bank Stadium against Sullivan Central for a combination of Homecoming and Senior Night 2020.
South will remember the game as the last time the program will face the Cyclones in a regular-season game on their home turf and may have one last contest against EHS should the playoffs play out to where South could visit Elizabethton in Round 2 as was the case last season.
Next year, the Rebels will unite with Central and North.
The Cyclones wasted little time in taking control of the game scoring twice in the opening 12 minutes of play.
Quarterback Bryson Rollins found one of his favorite targets in senior Parker Hughes in the back corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead after Sean Smithdeal booted the point-after through the uprights.
That score covered 19 yards and came with 8:07 remaining in the opening quarter.
Rollins connected with another receiver less than five minutes later when Braden Holly showed an athletic prowess when he went hard after a pass taking the ball in before hitting the ground to push the Cyclones ahead 14-0 as Smithdeal followed with the PAT.
South managed to crack the egg on the side of the scoreboard thanks to a couple of costly penalties on Elizabethton that allowed Eli Jennings to bull over from the two-yard line with 6:16 before the intermission.
Elijah Iacino split the uprights to make it 14-7 and that was the way the half ended.
The half was a win for the Rebels as they managed to keep the Cyclones in check up to that point.
When the Cyclones came out of the locker room, Rollins took the reins of the team as he led the Cyclones to two third-quarter touchdowns utilizing his legs scoring on runs of 12 and three yards with Smithdeal remaining perfect with two point-after attempts to extend the lead to 28-7 with one quarter remaining.
Although Rollins was the showcase piece throughout for the offense, another piece couldn’t be overlooked as sophomore Cade Russell had possibly his best all-around game on both the offensive side and defensive side of the football for the Cyclones as Russell carried the football 14 times for 100 yards offensively and laid some bone-crushing hits on the defensive side.
With the game pretty much settled before entering the fourth quarter, Rollins added his third consecutive rushing touchdown with 8:38 left to play on a 12-yard run. Smithdeal was true on the PAT and the lead ballooned to 35-7.
South added their final score after Cyclone head coach gave some of his younger players an opportunity to play as Damien McClain managed to find the end zone with 3:26 left to play.
Iacino converted the PAT to make it a 35-14 contest.
The Cyclones took the ensuing kickoff and Nate Stephens took a knee as mainly the second-team offense came on at that point. A penalty moved the ball back to the Cyclone nine-yard line.
But Stephens wasn’t going to be stopped as he broke through the left side of the Cyclone line and turned on the afterburners with the closest person to him being the official tagging along with the play as Stephens romped 91 yards for the final Cyclone touchdown.
Smithdeal’s PAT sealed the final score.
For the contest, Rollins finished with 19 carries for 146 yards and the three scores, Russell’s 14 carries for 100, and Stephens on the cusp of a 100-yard performance with two carried for 92 yards and the score.
Rollins also added 6-of-7 passing with one interception for 80 yards and two scores going to Hughes and Holly.
The Cyclones recorded 17 first downs to South’s 14 with EHS totaling 423 yards in the game to South’s 218.
Elizabethton had an uncharacteristic six penalties for 60 yards.
On defense, Jake Roberts collected an interception while Deuce Morton and Russell added a sack of the Rebel quarterback.
“It’s awesome,” said Holly about winning back to back conference championships. “We have all played together as kids and we all dreamed about a situation like this and have the possibility to go back to back state championships and back-to-back conference champs is amazing.”
“We just didn’t get the ball enough in the first half but just like last week it’s about four quarters,” stated Witten about the slow first half. “We seem to get better as the game goes along.
“We had a bad play call and threw an interception just trying to get the ball to Parker, but I loved the way we finished this football game.
“People may play with us for a quarter and a half but I am not sure they can play with us for four quarters.”