JOHNSON CITY -- Like a young Jerry Lee Lewis on a piano stool, Elizabethton High's football team played with gusto.
Against the Science Hill Hilltoppers, however, the Cyclones were a little off-key.
Giving itself a chance till late in the game, Elizabethton ultimately suffered a 27-13 setback Friday night at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
"We played hard," said Cyclone coach Shawn Witten. "I mean (Science Hill) is a 6A football team. If we play this hard down the road, we're going to get better from it. The question is, how do we rebound? Things didn't go the way we wanted them to tonight, and we just can't let this affect us next week against Happy Valley."
Cranking out 505 yards of offense, Science Hill (1-1) got a huge performance from quarterback Justin Snyder, who generated 342 yards in combined passing (202) and rushing (140) -- and stuck a hand in three touchdowns.
In spite of those gaudy numbers, the Cyclones (1-1) were down only 7-0 heading into the final period. Moreover, they had a great chance to even things up during the third period, as a Chad Pritchard interception and 33-yard return gave Elizabethton a first-and-goal at the 8.
Unfortunately for EHS, Terrence Turner's fourth-down run from the 2 barely fell short. The Cyclones initially reacted as if they had struck paydirt.
"You don't know what happened there," Witten said. "Chad made a great interception and got it down there. There's just no reason why we shouldn't have scored anyway -- why it should have been that close."
Before Science Hill's offense could get back on the field, Elizabethton was assessed a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct -- giving the Hilltoppers some needed breathing room.
"Guys (were) just frustrated," Witten said. "There were a lot of personal fouls today from both teams, and we'll get that straightened out. You've got guys being competitive, trying not to lose and fighting their butts off -- both teams."
From there, Science Hill put together a 13-play series that ended in a 15-yard Snyder scoring run and 13-0 game with 10:47 to play. Snyder (11-of-20) completed three passes for 67 yards -- 39 on a throw to Aaron Greene -- during the drive.
"We played well, but penalties killed us -- and they put us back in bad situations and on the goal line," said Pritchard, a Science Hill transfer. "The defense stepped up pretty good, but if we eliminate the mistakes we win this game. But that's all right, it happens. We'll come back next week and see if we can put it on Happy Valley."
The Cyclones were flagged nine times for 70 yards, and the Hilltoppers seven for 75.
Not ready to fizzle out, Elizabethton needed less than a minute to respond to Snyder's score. Going 3-for-3 in a three-play, 68-yard march, McKenly Berry hit Wes Montgomery down the middle of the field for a 53-yard TD.
Seven plays and 67 yards later, though, Science Hill was back in the end zone. Snyder, who carried the ball 17 times on the night, again did the scoring honors for his squad -- this time from 6 yards out.
"He's a tough quarterback and he's a competitor," Witten said of Snyder. "One of the best things, he's a winner. He finds ways to win. He's not very big, and you question his arm strength a little bit, but he's a winner and that's what he does."
A 43-yard catch by Greene anchored the offensive series. He finished with five catches for 129 yards.
"I mean they challenged us," said Science Hill coach Stacy Carter, speaking of the Cyclones. "I think (EHS assistant) Stan (Ogg) put about all 11 (defenders) in the box -- I thought he had 15 in there a couple of times. They were having their safeties down in the box. I think that's why we were able to hit some long passes there."
Back came 'Betsy with a four-play, 74-yard voyage that Berry capped with a 1-yard sneak across the goal line. The expeditious drive started with an incompletion, then came to life on a 21-yard Berry scamper coupled with a 15-yard Hilltopper penalty. Turner followed with a 37-yard gallop.
After Christine Hardin booted the extra point, Science Hill's lead was again less than comfortable at 19-13.
The Hilltoppers, however, kept their offense rolling and picked up a 29-yard Jamal Stephens scoring run with 3:45 left. Hank Overbay grabbed a Snyder conversion pass to close the scoring.
Behind four consecutive completions (each 10 yards or more) by Berry, Elizabethton issued one more threat -- but Todd Page-Gilmore's end-zone interception tucked away the victory for Science Hill.
Pritchard, who made a half-dozen receptions for 73 yards, believes the Cyclones should have produced more points.
"We knew 13 wasn't going to win it," he said. "There are some positives. We stepped up and we moved the ball well, made some good steps on 'D.' Like I said, eliminate the mistakes and the ballgame could have been different."
Driving from their 20-yard line to the Science Hill 10 on their final first-half possession, the Cyclones were knocked back 25 yards before giving up the ball at the Hilltopper 23. Sabotaging the march were two five-yard penalties, Grant Janeway's 11-yard sack and a Page-Gilmore 6-yard tackle for loss.
The Hilltoppers got their opening score on the game's fourth snap. Luke Hampton picked off Berry to open the contest, setting up a 24-yard TD toss from Snyder to Alex Lundberg.
Posing two more threats by the early part of the second stanza, Science Hill was twice thwarted on fourth down.
"That just shows a lot about our kids, the way we kept fighting," Witten said. "We were fortunate to just be 7-0 at halftime. You've got to just love the effort and love how proud the kids always play for both teams."
Jahmar Adams ran for 62 yards (22 carries) and Will Adams 55 (9) for Science Hill, which amassed 24 first downs.
On the Cyclones' side of the ledger, Berry was 16-of-25 for 184 yards, Turner racked up 109 yards on 13 rushes and Montgomery grabbed three balls for 82 yards. Berry and Zach Moore each chipped in seven carries for 28 yards as 'Betsy gained 346 from scrimmage.
Pritchard did a nice job in the punting department, sending three of his five attempts at least 40 yards. His best was a 55-yarder.
In a major matchup, Elizabethton will be at Happy Valley next Friday for its Three Rivers Conference opener. Science Hill entertains Sullivan Central.