Although they never backed down, the Longhorns simply could not match the power and speed of the Elizabethton Cyclones at Friday nights first round of the Division 1 AAA championship playoff. On the very first play of the first quarter, Elizabethtons intensely talented running backs managed to blast through everything the Longhorns could muster, finding a hole and taking it in for a touchdown less than 30 seconds into the game.
Setting the pace for the whole first half, it was one tough break after another for Johnson County. While a pass to senior Timmy Bellamy earned the Longhorns a first down, the next pass resulted in an interception and another Cyclone touchdown. The next possession started off with a 5-yard penalty against Elizabethton, but before long the Cyclones were back in the saddle and plowing their way down field.
Johnson Countys defense took a beating and kept coming back for more, but was simply unable to put the brakes on Elizabethtons offense. Just over seven minutes into the quarter, the Cyclones were looking at their third trip to the end zone, putting them at 0-21. Yet with plenty of time left on the clock to do more damage, Elizabethton was able to score two more times before the clock wound down.
Elizabethton just has a great team, said Coach Mike Atwood after the game. I tell you, I just cant say anything bad about Elizabethton. They played a great game. For the first half they just jumped on us and were not quite up to that level yet. I feel like in years past weve had teams that could compete with them, but this team is going to go a long way. We tried to put everybody on the line, but the first play of the game they broke through and were gone. They took it to the house and we put everybody up in the box. We decided to take a chance and see if we could stop them, because we knew we were going to have a hard time, but it just didnt work out for us.
At a shocking 0-35 first quarter score, the Longhorns did what they could to mitigate the Cyclones advance. Players like Roby Roark took to the field confirming that no matter what the score they werent going to give up. Perseverance was the name of the game for Johnson County, but the second quarter didnt go much better. Following a first down by Patrick South quarterback Warren Kerley once again attempted a pass to gain much needed ground. Elizabethton was already waiting, and making a smooth interception, ran the ball in for yet another touchdown.
Even at 0-42 the Longhorn defense struggled on, finally starting to put up some good stops toward half time. The offense started to have a little luck as well, and following a 15-yard penalty against Elizabethton for pass interference, began to make their way down field. Unfortunately this advance was cut short as well, culminating in a sack on Kerley, followed by an incomplete pass on 4th and 15. Thankfully, the Longhorns defensive line managed to keep Elizabethton off the scoreboard, but the damage was already done.
With the clock rolling constantly, the third quarter flew by. South made a few gains on the carry, but neither team really prevailed. A very narrow first down with just seconds left on the clock put Johnson County in a better position at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but even after taking it all the way to the two-yard line, the Longhorns came up short, fumbling at the end zone. Fortunately, Elizabethton was unable to hang onto the ball for very long, putting Johnson County back into position that allowed Luke Poteet to finally put the Longhorns on the scoreboard at the four-minute mark.
As the clock continued to run down, the Longhorns continued to battle and despite Elizabethtons attempts to end the game as quickly as possible, there was still just enough time for Johnson County to get on the board one last time. With the Longhorns taking the last possession of the game, Kerley made a long pass to River Cazire. With only seconds on the clock, Cazire ran into trouble but made a split second pass to Chase Kleine. Kleine received the ball just as the clock ran out, but with the ball still in play he made it across the goal line to close the game 13-42.
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