Cyclones Handle Tough Conditions, Pioneers
Cyclones Handle Tough Conditions, Pioneers
By Wes Holtsclaw
Star Staff firstname.lastname@example.org
BOONE, N.C. -- Elizabethton stormed Watauga for 14 quick points. Mother nature took over from there.
Battling rough, windy conditions, the Cyclones controlled possession in the second half and delivered timely defensive stops in Friday night's grueling 14-7 non-conference win at Groce Stadium.
With the passing and kicking games limited, both teams relied heavily on the ground game. For the Cyclones, it was Terrence Turner's time to shine.
The back gained 243 yards on 34 carries with a touchdown to lead the game and help the Cyclones milk the clock.
"The wind was blowing really hard and coach was saying that I'm going to have to take it over because we couldn't really throw the ball," said Turner, who has rushed for 610 yards over the last three weeks. "The line blocked well and I just ran off their blocks. (Watauga) tried to blitz and I just cut back."
Turner's big runs in the first quarter set the tone for Elizabethton.
On the Cyclones' first drive, Turner faked and juked his way through the line, then took off with an open dash for a 39-yard score to give the Cyclones a quick lead.
A defensive stop by Elizabethton forced a punt into the wind by the Pioneers, giving the Cyclones good field position at their own 46 for drive two.
Turner shaked and baked Watauga on first-down runs of 20 and 15, setting quarterback McKenly Berry up for a 6-yard bullet to Chad Pritchard and 14-0 lead after the Christine Hardin kick.
The odds turned towards Watauga's favor on their third drive.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Cyclones and 12-yard first-down run from Kyle Chambers moved the chains to end the quarter.
With the wind in their favor, Watauga quarterback Ethan Greene connected with Brian Bolster for a 14-yard pickup. Two more first down runs from Chambers pushed the Pioneers into the Cyclone red zone, then Greene found the running back wide open for an 11-yard touchdown strike.
The wild wind and messy weather didn't help either team by the end of the half as defense controlled the tempo and kept the two squads from the scoreboard.
Elizabethton opened the third quarter behind the run, moving the chains twice. A punt into the heavy wind gave Watauga possession at its own 47.
Chambers and Greene moved the chains with runs, then Greene hit Bolster with an 11-yard gain. An offsides penalty put the Pioneers within goal, but a hit from Kaleb Walters forced a Chambers fumble into the possession of teammate Luke Nidiffer, ending a potentially dangerous drive.
"We just wanted to stop them," said Nidiffer, who finished with 11 tackles on the game. "That's every defense's goal to stop the offense. We knew it was vital to stop them in order to win this ballgame. We came out and did our job. We worked and put in tons of effort. I'm proud of this defense."
The Cyclones took control of the clock in their second-half drives, milking as much time as possible with runs from Turner. Watauga, on the other hand -- urgent with time winding down -- had little luck budging the visiting defense.
"They averaged 20 points in the third quarter and (preventing a score) was the big difference," said Elizabethton coach Shawn Witten. "We let these guys know at halftime what was getting ready to happen. They came out and executed and did a really good job."
Elizabethton's best drive of the second half milked much of the fourth quarter, moving the chains into Watauga territory. It was stalled when a fumble in the backfield went the other direction. A 27-yard return from David Martin gave the Pioneers a shot at a tie with less than six minutes remaining in the game.
On the first play of the drive, however, Stephen Holtsclaw burst through the line and took Greene down with sack for a loss of 11.
"We were trying to hold them off the best we could," said Holtsclaw, who led the Cyclones with 14 tackles on the night. "All we were thinking was we wanted to hit them in the mouth."
A holding penalty on the following play made it first-and-37 for Watauga.
Greene battled upfield with completions of 14 and 13 though the air. On fourth-and-9, Greene fired towards an open receiver -- but Zach Treadway delivered a big pass break-up to squash Watauga's comeback hopes.
Turner helped run out the home team's timeouts with two first down runs, setting up a Berry knee to preserve the Cyclones' win.
"I liked the way we started the game," said Witten. "We got 14 points, then it was really tough going the opposite way in the wind. You really couldn't get anything going.
"The defense really stepped up coming out of halftime. The way we started off with the 14-point cushion really got us going, and we talked about finishing it. We finished it tonight.
"We didn't turn the ball over and did exactly what we needed to do. It was a total team effort. In these conditions, all three phases stepped up."
Led by Turner's performance, the Cyclones outgained Watauga 297-179 in total offensive yards.
Berry completed 8 of 13 passes for 50 yards with the score. Chambers paced the Pioneers with 85 yards on the ground while Greene went 7-of-15 for 71 yards through the air.
Coming off of two consecutive losses, the win was a needed lift for the Cyclones with three conference games and a bye remaining on the schedule.
"It's a big boost of momentum," said Walters, who had six tackles, including two for loss, along with the forced fumble. "After we had those two losses, this is going to get everyone's morale up."
Added Holtsclaw: "We came out knowing it was a must win. At 3-3, coach was getting on us all week about how we control our own destiny and getting into the playoffs. We've got to come out and got to come out strong and have to finish."
Elizabethton resumes play Friday at home against Unicoi County.