2021 Class 4-A Playoffs… Cyclones rip stingers out of Hornets to open title defense

Published 12:35 am Saturday, November 6, 2021

Whatever venom the Carter Green Hornets had when they arrived at Citizens Bank Stadium for the opening round of the 2021 TSSAA Class 4-A playoffs against the defending state champion Cyclones was emptied by the half.

The Cyclones built a 19-0 halftime advantage and never looked back in the second half as Coach Shawn Witten’s team advanced to the second round of the playoffs with a convincing 47-14 win over their visitors from Strawberry Plains.

Elizabethton got the game rolling in the opening quarter when Bryson Rollins called his own number and scampered into the end zone from the seven-yard line making it 6-0 Cyclones with 5:02 left on the opening quarter clock.

Placekicker Sean Smithdeal made it 7-0 on the point-after and that’s the way the first quarter ended.

The Cyclones tacked on their second score once again on the legs of Rollins who dashed in from the six-yard ling to make it 13-0. Smithdeal’s PAT was no good and the game stood at 13-0 with 5:24 left to play in the first half.

Elizabethton took advantage of an Eli Williams interception just before the half as Williams was stopped five yards short of the goal line.

Rollins took care of matters however when he rolled back into the pocket and lofted a perfectly-placed pass to fellow senior Jake Roberts for the score with four ticks remaining in the half.

The Cyclones went for two and the run failed as both teams entered the locker room with ‘Betsy leading 19-0.

Elizabethton received the second-half kickoff and it didn’t take long for Rollins to make the Green Hornets pay. The swift-footed quarterback took the snap and was off to the races for a 38-yard scoring jaunt with 10:27 showing on the third-quarter clock.

Smithdeal’s point-after was straight through the pipes and the Cyclones were in control leading 26-0.

Carter finally broke the ice on the ensuing drive when Brody Blankenship corraled a five-yard scoring pass from quarterback Chandler Wilson. Maliyah Brake booted the ball straight and true on the point after and the scoreboard read 26-7 with 7:19 remaining in the third quarter.

The game started to get more and more chippy as Carter was whistled for a basket full of unsportsmanlike penalties with head coach Justin Pressley being tossed for two unsportsmanlike penalties along with lineman Tyreke Partridge before the officials finally got a better grip on the game.

In the meantime, Rollins added his fourth rushing touchdown of the contest with 3:20 to play in the third quarter on a 10-yard run and Smithdeal’s kick made it 33-7 Cyclones.

Dalton Mitchell brought the fans to their feet as on his second interception of the night he returned the ball 35 yards for a pick-six to extend the lead to 40-7 on Smithdeal’s PAT.

Nate Stephens closed out the scoring for the Cyclones with 3:05 to play as he shaked and baked his way 16 yards into pay dirt to give Elizabethton the 47-7 advantage and a running clock.

The Hornets Hasan Al Sultani closed out the game as he romped 64 yards for a score with 21 ticks remaining on the clock. Brake connected on her second point after and the game had its final score of 47-14.

Elizabethton had 332 yards of total offense to Carter’s 302 with the Cyclones carrying the ball 40 times for 277 yards in the game. The Hornets had 191 passing yards to the Cyclones 55.

Rollins carried the ball 14 times for 131 yards and four scores while junior Cade Russell toted the pigskin 19 times for 101 yards. Stephens added seven touches for 45 yards and the score.

The game was filled with penalties as a total of 20 yellow hankies found the field evenly split between the teams. Carter was whistled for 118 yards in penalties to the Cyclones 94.

Defensively, the Cyclones had three sacks with one each being recorded by Blake Stewart, Drew Turner, and JC Andes. The Cyclones also had three interceptions – two by Mitchell and the one by Williams and recovered two offensive fumbles as Roberts and Rollins fell on loose footballs.

The Cyclones will be back in action at 7 p.m. next Friday night at Anderson County. The Mavericks fended off Seymour for a 39-21 win.