Cyclones win defensive battle over Indians

Published 3:54 pm Monday, October 2, 2023


KINGSPORT – It had been nearly 15 years since the Elizabethton Cyclones and Dobyns-Bennett Indians had faced off on the football field, but that rivalry was once again re-established on Friday in Kingsport as the state’s third-ranked Cyclones in Class 4-A were looking to remain unbeaten on the season and break a 12 game losing streak to the Indians.

With some expecting the contest to be a high-scoring affair, the game was settled on the defensive side of the football as the Cyclones broke the streak with a 14-7 road victory.

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The game…

Elizabethton controlled most of the first half clock offensively but were their own worst enemy as multiple flags and turnovers plagued almost every drive they had in the half.

The only score of the half came from the foot of freshman placekicker Will Bowers who nailed a 26-yard field goal in one of the biggest kicks in his high school career to date to give Elizabethton a 3-0 lead at intermission.

Coaches and fans alike said that the first half was one of the hardest hitting games they had ever witnessed at the high school level and that was reflected by the low score after the first 24 minutes of football.

After the half, the Indians put together a sustained drive and managed to take their first and only lead of the contest on a Will Hurd 17-yard strike to wide receiver Tylen Taylor. Cooper McClain’s point-after attempt was good and the Indians were on top 7-3.

Bowers made his second field goal of the night in the third quarter to narrow the lead to 7-6 as both teams continued to pop the pads defensively as the game went to the fourth quarter.

Elizabethton took the lead for good just 1:23 into the final quarter when Jeriah Griffin carried the ball into the end zone from five yards out. Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten elected to go for the two-point conversion and Griffin converted as he flew like Superman over the top of the Indian line into the end zone to make it a 14-7 lead.

The Indians had an opportunity to tie the game as the game clock was ticking just under three minutes to play in the game. Dobyns-Bennett was picking up large chunks of yardage on the ground driving down inside the Cyclone 20-yard line when they elected to try and throw to the end zone for a touchdown.

However, Griffin was reading the play from the get-go and stepped in front of the pass to give the Cyclones the ball back. The Cyclones ran the football forcing the Indians to utilize all of their timeouts before a first down allowed the Cyclones to take the victory formation knee to send the team, coaches, cheerleaders, band, and fans into a celebration frenzy after a 14-7 victory.


In their own words…

Sophomore quarterback Rhett Slagle

“This feels great. Every day we have come to practice and worked for this. We came out and it wasn’t pretty, but when we needed it, we got it. It’s just good to beat these dudes – we weren’t supposed to but nine times out of 10 we will. That’s just the way we work.

Our defense came up with great stops and it’s all about preparation. Our younger guys helped us prepare all week the coaches put us in the right place at the right time. It’s just a great way to play the game.”


Senior defensive lineman Eli Guess

“I just wanted to start off playing my technique right with a lot of physicality. They were probably one of the most physical teams that we have played this season. We really prepared all week for this game. It was important to keep the pressure on the quarterback and slow the running game down. They are used to running up the middle and we shut that down pretty quick, so it was just a great game by the defense.”


Head Coach Shawn Witten

“We were just resilient. We knew it was going to be a battle and that was about as ugly as it can get in the first half but our guys persevered. I would rather have an ugly win than a pretty loss. It was pretty fantastic there at the end. We ran five minutes off the clock and then stepped up and made the plays.

We were our own worst enemy in the first half, where we got the ball down close for a score. We just kept battling and kept playing. We got knocked down several times but we got right back up. These guys deserve all the credit. This win means a lot.”


Statistically speaking…

Each team recorded 15 first downs in the contest as the Cyclones outgained the Indians in total yards, 351 to 222. Slagle was 11-of-15 for 150 yards passing. Zeth Mullins was the leading rusher for the Cyclones carrying the ball 19 times for 148 yards. Kaleb Holzer added 11 carries for 53 yards.

Griffin and Zach Wallin added an interception apiece defensively for the Cyclones.


Up next…

The Cyclones will be at Citizens Bank Stadium for their very first home game of the season in a black-out homecoming game on Friday with a 7:30 pm kickoff when they welcome Northview Academy to Elizabethton.

A large crowd is being asked to welcome the Cyclones home for the first time after being road warriors for six straight contests.


Elizabethton, 14-7

ELIZABETHTON        0      3      3      8      —    14

DOBYNS-BENNETT 0      0      7      0      —    7


Second Quarter

E — Bowers 26 field goal, 9:27

Third Quarter

DB — Taylor 17 pass from Hurd (McLain kick), 7:11

Fourth Quarter

E — Griffin 5 run (Griffin run), 10:37

Game Statistics

                                 E              DB

FIRST DOWNS         15                15

PASSING (C-A-I)       11-15-0         5-12-2

PASSING YARDS      150              78

RUSHES-YARDS       40-201          30-144

TOTAL YARDS          351              222

FUMBLES-LOST       3-3         2-2

PUNTS-AVG.             0-0           0-0

PENALTIES-YARDS   12-75           6-58

Individual Statistics

PASSING — EHS: Rhett Slagle 11-15-0 150 yds; DB: Will Hurd 5-12-2 78 yds TD.

RUSHING — EHS: Zeth Mullins 19-148, Kaleb Holzer 11-53, Jeriah Griffin 4-12 TD, Slagle 6-(-)12; DB: Hayden Jobe 12-79, Hurd 8-24, Franklin 5-9, Simpson 4-22, Sykes 1-10.

RECEIVING — EHS: Griffin 6-74, Blevins 2-16, Mullins 1-32, Whaley 1-20, Baker 1-8; DB: Tylen Taylor 5-73 TD, Kerkhoff 1-5.

INTERCEPTIONS — EHS: Jeriah Griffin, Zach Wallin.