Big stage…no problem… Cyclones continue to impress in prime time opportunities
Published 1:46 am Tuesday, August 24, 2021
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
The last two seasons have provided ample opportunity for the Elizabethton Cyclones to be under the scope in big-time football contests and each and every time they have responded like the champions they are.
On Friday night in Johnson City inside William B. Greene Stadium on the campus of East Tennessee State University when the Friday Night Lights were flipped on for their contest with Science Hill, it was just another opportunity to show up and show out before a near-capacity crowd approaching 8,000 plus.
The atmosphere wasn’t one of a high school game but had the feel of a collegiate affair as the crowd was fully engaged with each snap of the ball and players on both sides were leaving it all out on the field.
Several had to be helped to the sidelines due to cramps from the tremendous loss of fluids from the intensity of the game.
The game itself didn’t disappoint. The Cyclones came out of the gate quickly scoring two scores to silence the Science Hill side in the opening quarter.
Science Hill got their crowd back into the game in the second as they pushed out front of the defending Class 4A State Champions by a 15-14 score that briefly put the home team in front.
It was the last time the ‘Toppers were going to be ahead as the Cyclones put the gas on with two more scores before the break to take a 28-15 lead and owned the second half to win the contest.
There were some notable takeaways from the contest.
Too many weapons to cover…
Many wondered how the Cyclone offense would respond after the loss of Parker Hughes and Brayden Holly along with three big starting offensive linemen from the 2020 state champs.
That answer was quickly answered as a number of weapons came to the front to show that the offense is just as capable of scoring points as last year’s.
Bryson Rollins, a two-time Mr. Football selection, got off on the right foot to possibly win that title this year as the senior was as cool as a cucumber in the pocket and kept his team focused even after falling behind early in the second quarter.
Not only was he effective throwing the football connecting on three scoring tosses to fellow senior Jake Roberts but was able to scramble and buy time to connect on the run to open receivers to keep drives going.
Cade Russell ran with power and finesse going into the middle of the Science Hill defense to pick up 94 yards on 20 carries while inflicting punishment on the ‘Topper defenders who were trying to tackle him.
There were plenty of role players as well with Nate Stephens, Jeriah Griffin, Seth Mullins, and Dalton Mitchell all playing a hand in keeping the chains moving.
And last but certainly not least, the Cyclone offensive line played lights out all night as they gave their quarterback all the time he needed to throw the ball as well as providing running lanes for their backs.
Overall, the offense grades out to a solid ‘A’ for their efforts. There is still work to do but if they keep progressing they will be unstoppable by the end of the regular season heading into the playoffs.
The defense brought the hammer…
The Cyclone defense was the story of the night as they kept a very dangerous Jaxton Diamond in check and after a strong opening half by Baylor Brock who accounted for both ‘Topper scores in the second period with over 150 yards of rushing was basically shut down in the second half.
Also, the defense had two goalline stands that could be pitted against any stand anywhere as on the final one of the game, not even with two huge flags which were questionable being thrown against the Cyclones could help Science Hill score from the half yard line as Elizabethton pushed the ‘Toppers back to the 10-yard line in the change of possession.
Coach Jordy Harrison did an outstanding job of keeping his lineman as fresh as possible which allowed for a push almost every down.
Lane Harrison may have earned more playing time as he was all over the field from his defensive back position especially in the fourth quarter.
And one of the hardest hits of the night belonged to Russell who absolutely crushed Brock on a run near the goal line that could be heard throughout the stadium.
The defense also earns an ‘A’ this week as the only thing that kept that from being an ‘A+’ was the inability in the first half to stop Brock who could have drove a truck through some of the lanes he had until the defense made adjustments at the half.
A superb atmosphere…
The atmosphere for the contest couldn’t have been better. With the ‘Betsy Band being fully engaged from start to finish, the student body showing up with one of the most vocal student crowds in remembrance, the fans decked out in orange full on one side and scattered on the home side, and fireworks shot throughout, the game was just about an exciting game as any ever attended.
All the talk heard during the weekend was just how exciting it was to be in attendance in full force and enjoying football the way it should be played – before a full stadium with the school band, cheerleaders, and just the excitement of the start of a new prep football season.
It was definitely an ‘A+’ atmosphere.