Cyclones rip wings off Hornets to advance to second round

Published 11:50 am Monday, November 6, 2023


High school football’s second season got underway on Friday night as teams all over the state of Tennessee began their path toward reaching the state championship game in their respective divisions.


The Elizabethton Cyclones were one of those teams as they played host to the Knox Carter Hornets in the first round of the 2023 Class 4-A BlueCross Football Championship at Citizens Bank Stadium. The Cyclones overcame a subpar offensive performance in the first half to run away in the second half recording a 38-0 victory over the visitors ending Carter’s season at 6-5.


The game

The Cyclones opened the contest looking to utilize junior Jeriah Griffin more, as Griffin ran the wildcat on several snaps early in the contest before quarterback Rhett Slagle returned to lead the offense.

Elizabethton put their first points on the scoreboard at the 8:57 mark of the first quarter when Griffin finished off a drive with a five-yard run. Will Bowers took care of the extra point and the home team was up 7-0.

That would be how the first quarter ended.

The Cyclones tacked on a second score in the opening half when senior running back Zeth Mullins pushed his way through the interior of the Carter defense to stake the Cyclones to a 14-0 lead after Bowers PAT split the uprights.

Those would be the only two scores in the first half as both defenses made stands to prevent any further damage, with Elizabethton leading 14-0 at the intermission.

Needing an infusion of energy, the Cyclones got exactly what they needed late in the third quarter as Coach Shawn Witten’s team put together a trio of scores within a two-minute span.

Griffin scored his second touchdown of the contest on a three-yard run with 3:29 left to play in the third quarter. Bowers remained perfect on the extra-point attempt and the Cyclones lead climbed to 21-0.

After a Mullins interception, the Cyclones were back in business and quickly cashed in when Mullins romped in from nine yards out just 28 seconds later to make it 28-0 on Bowers PAT with 3:01 showing on the third-quarter clock.

After another Mullins interception, the speedy back put an exclamation point on the game with 1:53 remaining in the third quarter when he electrified the crowd with a 57-yard run to pay dirt to make it 35-0 on a Caleb Campbell extra point.

Bowers would be called on with 7:50 remaining in the contest to attempt a 22-yard field goal which was no problem for the placekicker who has hit 5-of-5 on field goal attempts this season for the Cyclones to give the game its final score of 38-0.


Statistically speaking

Mullins recorded yet another 100-yard game on the season as the senior carried the ball 10 times for 113 yards and three scores. Griffin just missed a 100-yard game carrying the pigskin 21 times for 91 yards and two scores.

Quarterback Rhett Slagle completed 8-of-12 passes for 196 yards with Luke Whaley hauling in three of those passes for 119 yards. Eli Blevins returned to the lineup after sitting out against Greeneville with a head injury to record four receptions for 72 yards.

The Cyclones had four interceptions in the game as Mullins recorded two with Landry Buckles and Zach Wallin recording the other two picks.

Elizabethton finished with 366 yards of total offense to 224 yards for Knox Carter.

The Hornets only had two flags for 30 yards of penalties while Elizabethton was flagged nine times for 85 yards.


What the coach said

“We had the football at the one-yard line twice and went backward,” said Witten. “Just a really good football team in Carter. The running back is really tough and they got off to a really good start trying to establish the line of scrimmage trying to run the football. We had a chance in the game to put the football away in the first half but ended up scoring on only two of the four drives.

“We had to pick it up in the second half and we needed to change the mentality. We let them hang around a little bit where we could have been up 28-0. It was good for us to hit the reset button, and come back out in a 14-0 game and we knew the first five minutes were going to be critical. It was a good challenge tonight and it’s going to make us better. The guys really fought hard and executed for the most part – I am just super proud of them.”


Up next

The Cyclones will be hitting the road to take on a familiar foe in the Anderson County Mavericks who soundly defeated the Sullivan East Patriots 49-0. The Mavericks are the defending state champions but the Cyclones gave the team from Clinton two of its closest contest in their championship run last season.

Another physical contest is expected Friday night in Clinton with the kickoff set for 7 pm.


Elizabethton, 38-0

Class 4A First Round

CARTER                   0      0      0      0      —    0

ELIZABETHTON      7      7      21    3      —    38


First Quarter

E — Griffin 5 run (Bowers kick), 8:57

Second Quarter

E — Mullins 4 run (Bowers kick), 6:52

Third Quarter

E — Griffin 3 run (Bowers kick), 3:29

E — Mullins 9 run (Bowers kick), 3:01

E — Mullins 57 run (Bowers kick), 1:53

Fourth Quarter

E —  Bowers 22 field goal, 7:50

Game Statistics

                          C              E

FIRST DOWNS             12                10

PASSING (C-A-I)       14-32-2       8-12-0

PASSING YARDS        101              196

RUSHES-YARDS       36-123         35-170

TOTAL YARDS            224          366

FUMBLES-LOST        0-0               0-0

PUNTS-AVG.               6-50             1-31

PENALTIES-YARDS   2-30             9-85

Individual Statistics

PASSING — CHS: Sparks 14-32-4 101 yds; EHS: Slagle 8-12-0 196 yds.

RUSHING — CHS: Scruggs 19-89, Russell 16-34, Webb 1-0; EHS: Griffin 21-91 2 TD, Mullins 10-113 3 TD, Slagle 4-(-)34.

RECEIVING — CHS: Thomas 4-49, Russell 5-25, Scruggs 3-23, Martin 1-2, Monday 1-2; EHS: Whaley 3-119, Blevins 4-72, Griffin 1-5.

INTERCEPTIONS — EHS: Mullins 2, Buckles, Wallin.

SACKS — CHS: Taylor, Webb.