Flattened Pioneers… Cyclones first half paves way for an easy first-round victory, 56-34, over East Ridge
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
At first glimpse, some might think that the Elizabethton Cyclones had a hard time in the first round of Friday nights Class 4A football playoff contest against the East Ridge Pioneers.
However, it was just the opposite as the Cyclones built a 28-0 lead after one quarter and extended that advantage to 49-7 at the intermission and then turned the game over to the second and third teams to finish out the contest to earn a 56-34 win and advance to the second round next week.
The Cyclones will play host to a team they haven’t played before in East Hamilton from Region 2. For comparison sake, East Hamilton defeated the Pioneers 38-26 during the regular season.
Parker Hughes showed the Pioneers a different dimension as the senior stepped behind quarterback Bryson Rollins and carried six times for 68 yards and a score and then split out to receiver to haul in six catches for 142 yards and three more scores making for a long night for the Pioneer defense.
Rollins, who normally runs quite a bit in the Cyclone system, was basically given the task of handing the football off and throwing the ball downfield as head coach Shawn Witten wanted to limit Rollins running the ball due to a strained hamstring from last week’s contest.
It wouldn’t matter as Rollins calmly completed 13-of-18 passes for 273 yards and five scores on the night.
Jake Roberts caught two balls for 40 yards and a score and Jordan Killion was on the receiving end of a 59-yard bomb that Rollins non-chantilly danced around in the backfield for what seemed like a minute before unleashing the sidearm throw downfield to Killion.
Nate Stephens aided in the ground attack as the sophomore carried 11 times for 94 yards and a score as he continued his climb toward the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
From a statistical standpoint, both teams were neck and neck in total yards as the Cyclones had 475 while the Pioneers finished with 459 yards.
East Ridge had 372 yards on the ground mainly after the Cyclones pulled their starting defense. Desmon Drake led the Pioneer ground attack carrying the pigskin 19 times for 182 yards and two scores.
Defensively, the Cyclones took advantage of what East Ridge gave them as Peyton Johnson had two fumble recoveries while Conner Johnson covered one fumble as well.
Dalton Mitchell added an interception to stop a potential scoring drive for East Ridge.
“We just wanted to come out and play really well,” said Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten who has his team on a 26-game winning streak.
“We have to get ourselves better. It’s playoff time atmosphere, playoff mindset, mental toughness. We know each round is going to get extremely tough and we played a really good football team that’s athletic and has a lot of speed and we have a really good team.
“We know it’s going to get tough.”
The Cyclones welcome East Hamilton to Citizens Bank Stadium next Friday night at 7 pm.
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