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Cyclones survive attack by Greene Devils

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Elizabethton Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten made a prophetic comment heading into the first week of the 2020 Class 4A state playoffs when he said that with each week the challenge to win gets tougher and tougher.

That wasn’t more evident than Friday night at Citizens Bank Stadium when the Greeneville Greene Devils did everything they could to bring the Cyclones down but in the end the Cyclones met the challenge stopping the Greene Devils on a fourth and 10 with just over four minutes left and managed to run the clock out to take a 24-20 heart-pounding win.

The win puts the Cyclones back into a familiar spot as they hit the road next week to Nolensville for a rematch of the 2019 state semifinal contest with the winner advancing to the following weeks state championship at Cookeville.

Nolensville eeked out a slim 15-14 win over previously unbeaten Tullahoma to earn the spot opposite the Cyclones.

Friday’s contest didn’t light a spark under the fans who had shown up to see the dynamic Cyclone offense show off as it was a nip and tuck battle from the opening kickoff.

The Cyclones would dent the scoreboard first in the opening quarter when quarterback Bryson Rollins willed his way into the end zone with 2:47 left on the first quarter clock.

Shawn Smithdeal’s point-after was good given the Cyclones a 7-0 lead.

Heading into the second quarter, the Cyclones appeared to have the Greene Devils where they wanted them with their back to their own end zone but Mason Gudger quickly turned everything around as he bolted through an opening and turned on the after burners racing 98 yards for the score.

Cooper Graham booted the PAT and the score was knotted at 7-7 with 3:51 remaining in the first half.

Elizabethton got a crucial three points as the half ended when Smithdeal punched a 31-yard field goal through the uprights to send the Cyclones to the locker room leading 10-7.

The Greene Devils took advantage of prime field position to open the second half and went ahead on a 53-yard scoring toss from quarterback Brady Quillen to Jaden Stevenson to make it 13-10 after a series of false start penalties set Greeneville back on the point after which was missed by Graham leaving the score at 13-10 Greene Devils.

Elizabethton went back out front with 1:56 left in the third quarter on a four-yard Cade Russell touchdown blast and a Smithdeal PAT to make it a 17-13 score.

Just 30 seconds later, Gudger answered with another long run of 75 yards to make it 20-17 as the game was headed to its final 12 minutes of regulation.

The Cyclones went ahead for good with 8:41 to play when Rollins scampered in from seven yards out and Smithdeal’s kick was true to make it 24-20.

Needing a defensive stop, the Cyclones got exactly what they needed on the fourth and 10 play and then masterfully worked the clock to :00 to take the win.

Statistically, the Greene Devils outgained the Cyclones 373 to 262 but the demise for Greeneville was seven penalties for 64 yards. to only two for Elizabethton for 10 yards.

Rollins was 6-of-12 passing with one interception for 107 yards while rushing 17 times for 22 yards and two scores. Russell carried 16 times for 77 yards while Hughes added 10 touches for 46 yards.

Gudger had eye-popping numbers as he carried the rock 12 times for 200 yards and two scores.

The Cyclones had two big interceptions in the game as Russell and Hughes picked off Quillen one time apiece.

“Tonight was really tough just playing Greeneville a second time,” said Witten after the game. “They made a lot of good adjustments that just stopped us.

“We just didn’t get off to the greatest start in the first quarter. We had so many opportunities. Our defense stopped them and we just really tried to go for the kill to early and tried to really press it.”

The game next week kicks off at 7 pm central and 8 pm eastern from Nolensville.