ELIZABETHTON — Every time it appeared Elizabethton had Science Hill within reach Friday night, Reed Hayes and the Hilltoppers would break free.
Hayes threw three touchdown passes and rushed 44 yards for another, and Science Hill left Brown-Childress Stadium with a 27-16 victory.
Elizabethton (0-2) outrushed the ’Toppers 216-97 and ran more than twice as many plays, but the home run threats were the deciding factors for the Hilltoppers (2-0).
The first score came with 9:56 left in the second quarter when Hayes, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior, threw a 25-yard TD pass to sophomore Malik McGue on 4th-and-21. The score was set up by Gad Nagba’s fumble recovery at the Elizabethton 30.
Christine Hardin’s 25-yard field goal with 16 seconds left in the first half got the Cyclones within 7-3, which was still the score when Hayes converted a 3rd-and-5 with a 75-yard TD pass to Jordan Olsen with 1:25 left in the third quarter. Olsen caught the ball beyond midfled, maintained his balance after stumbling following the catch and dashed to the end zone. Alex Rinella’s PAT made the score 14-3.
With eight minutes left, Hayes scrambled around avoiding pressure and threw a 75-yard TD pass to Tre’vonn Fields, who caught the ball around the Elizabethton 45 and made a would-be tackler miss in the open field while going untouched to the end zone.
“We have great athletes and they made some great plays, but I mean, they stopped the run,” said Hilltoppers coach Stacy Carter, who was impressed with Elizabethton defensive coordinator Stan Ogg’s preparation. “Coach Ogg did a great job stopping the run, you know, beating us up front. I’m just glad to get out with a win on this game. We didn’t play very well. We didn’t play very well at all. We know that. And I didn’t do that good of a job.
“Anytime you get out of Elizabethton with a win … an ugly win is better than not winning.”
Cyclones quarterback Caleb Bailey’s 9-yard TD pass to Zach Moore got Elizabethton within 21-10 with 2:47 remaining, but on the third play after the Cyclones’ failed onside kick, Hayes took the shotgun snap and ran 44 yards up the middle of the field for a touchdown on 3rd-and-5.
Hayes finished 6-of-10 passing for 222 yards and had 10 carries for 44 yards. He was sacked three times, including when he fumbled on a 2nd-and-11 from the Elizabethton 21-yard line in the third quarter. Ian Glover, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound senior, made the sack and the recovery at the Elizabethton 29.
Glover and Derek Nunley also dropped Nagba for no gain on a 4th-and-1 at the Elizabethton 3 with 1:58 left in the first quarter.
“We had a lot of tackles for loss,” Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten said. “We gang tackled. I mean, just two or three plays here and there. I love our kids’ effort tonight — against what they’ve got and how explosive they are. … Reed was able to extend two or three plays and scramble a little bit.”
Elizabethton sophomore Ethan Thomas rushed 31 times for 162 yards. Many plays were well-blocked, and initial contact rarely stopped him. Witten was especially pleased with the ground game when considering the Cyclones’ lack of a passing game in a 14-7 loss last week at Daniel Boone.
“We ran the football, and they had to know we’s gonna run the football,” Witten said. “I thought we were effective. I thought Ethan ran hard. I thought our line blocked well. Honestly, up front, I thought we kind of won some battles. We knocked them off the ball.”
Will Adams had 14 carries for 55 yards for Science Hill, and 24 of those yards came on a run when he appeared to be stopped for minimal gain, but broke several tackles while keeping his legs churning.
Fields had three catches for 122 yards. The athletic 6-foot-4 junior caught a 13-yard pass to the Elizabethton 13 in the first half on a 4th-and-9 and caught a 33-yard pass on 3rd-and-20 in the third quarter. He also had a 40-yard reception wiped away by offensive pass interference.
“He is very dangerous,” Carter said. “And Reed made some good plays. He’s just got to stay within himself. And once we get that down we’ll be a lot better.
“Remember that’s just the man’s second full game, too. So he’s got a heck of an upside. And a lot of things went wrong. If we could’ve run the ball, a lot that stuff don’t happen. He was forced to make some plays … and he made them.”
It was also the second game for Bailey, who passed for 66 yards and scored from a yard out on the game’s final play. No PAT was attempted.
Linebackers O'Ryen Scott, Grant Janeway and Tate Isbell were among those who made tackles behind the line of scrimmage for Science Hill. Defensive backs Adams and McGue each made a difficult open field tackle on Terrence Turner, who rushed six times for 26 yards and caught three passes for 37 yards.
Elizabethton had nine penalties for 60 yards and muffed two sky-kick kickoffs, one of which Science Hill recovered. The Hilltoppers had eight penalties for 90 yards (unofficially).
“This is one night it wasn’t our night,” Carter said. “Penalties killed us. … A lot of times you get better from your first to second game. We went backward.”
Science Hill visits Sullivan Central Friday, and Elizabethton hosts Happy Valley.