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2020 BLUE CROSS BOWL CLASS 4A STATE SEMIFINALS… Cyclones leave no doubt at Nolensville

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com 
NOLENSVILLE – For anyone wondering if the Elizabethton Cyclones deserved an opportunity to defend their 2019 Blue Cross Class 4A State Championship, the Cyclones left little doubt for the doubters as they turned the Nolensville Knights every which way but loose on the road in Nolensville Friday night.

Scoring on every possession they had in the game, the Cyclones blew past the Knights 56-21 to advance to next Saturday’s 2020 Blue Cross Bowl Class 4A State Championship contest at Tucker Stadium on the campus of Tennessee Tech against Haywood.

Haywood (10-3) advanced with a tight 17-14 win over Lexington (12-2) and will try to keep the Cyclones from earning back-to-back state championships as well as another 15-0 season.

Game time will be at 11 am CST, 12 noon EST.

The game against Nolensville could basically be summed up in two words – Parker Hughes.

The senior had another big night and if there were any doubt on who might be the frontrunner for the Class 4A Mr. Football, Hughes may have settled the debate in the semifinal contest.

Hughes carried the ball 13 times for 191 yards and two scores including a scintillating 85-yard burst that saw Knights in Hughes review view mirror.

He also added three catches for 29 yards and a jump-ball touchdown in the corner of the end zone which was perfectly placed by Cyclone junior quarterback Bryson Rollins.

But Hughes wasn’t all the story as Nate Stephens ripped off 70 yards on seven carries and two scores, Cade Russell toted the pigskin 10 times for 45 yards, and Rollins finished with five rushes for 19 yards and two touchdowns.

Another prime-time offensive performer was Jake Roberts who hauled in five receptions for 117 yards and a score.

Defensively, the Cyclones bend but don’t break mentality allowed the offense to get a lead, and then the defensive unit rose to the occasion to all but shut things down for Nolensville to keep any chance of a comeback at bay.

A Cade Russell interception at the one-yard line stymied one Nolensville drive while the Cyclone defense started to unsettle Knight quarterback Ryder Galardi in the second half and recorded three sacks by Grayson Hatfield, Caleb Johnson, and Trenton Taylor.

The Cyclones put 478 yards of total offense up against Nolensville while the Knights finished with 329 total yards.

Rollins had another statistically glaring night throwing the football as the gunslinger was 9-of-10 for 153 yards and two scores.

The Knights were their own worst enemy getting flagged nine times for 99 yards including two 15-yard back-to-back penalties that moved the Cyclones 30 yards on one of their drives.

Sean Smithdeal was another shining star as the Cyclone placekicker nailed all eight of his extra-point attempts.

“Today we dominated,” said Witten after the contest. “The first half was tremendous. The ability to score when the ball was on the one-yard line but our kids played a relentless effort today.

“You talk about mental toughness – to take this trip on the road. We started the first game and knew this game was going to be on the road and it doesn’t get any better than this. It was ultimately the toughest challenge that we have had.

Hughes wasn’t ready for this to be his last game as a Cyclone and said that there was only one focus for this team.

“We have been focused on that state championship – that’s what we have been working on this whole time,” said Hughes.