ELIZABETHTON — It took about four plays for Elizabethton to establish the line of scrimmage.
Soon after, the game was basically over — and the Three Rivers Conference football championship was returned to Elizabethton.
The Cyclones ran all over Johnson County, piling up 361 yards on the ground in the first half alone and rolling to a 34-7 victory Friday night at Rider Field.
“These guys have had a chip on their shoulder all year long,” said Cyclones’ head coach Shawn Witten. “There has been a sour taste because they let the title slip away last year. This is a special bunch of kids.”
Elizabethton improved to 4-0 in league play and 7-2 overall. The Cyclones have next week off, and will finish their regular season against Sullivan East in Week 10. The Longhorns fell to 2-2, 4-4.
By the end of the game, the Cyclones had three running backs top the 100-yard mark. They needed only a combined 26 carries to get there.
Terrence Turner had six carries for 125 yards, Ethan Thomas totaled 114 on 11 carries, and Zach Moore added nine carries for 108 yards.
In the first half, the Cyclones averaged 13.9 yards per attempt.
“We knew what was on the line,” said Witten. “We came out focused and we’ve got 17 special seniors. They wanted this night to be special.
“I’ve been around here a long time, and I’ve known a lot of Elizabethton football. This may be the best half of of football people have seen around here.”
Defense was a big part of it, too. The Cyclones eventually gave up 205 total yards but 83 came on Johnson County’s final possession.
Elizabethton linebacker Luke Blanton said the defensive dominance started at the line of scrimmage.
“The defensive line did a great job,” said Blanton. “You can’t stop our linemen, and every single linebacker appreciates that.”
Blanton said the Cyclones have a lot of defensive talent.
“We’ve been blessed and we appreciate the good Lord helping us,” said Blanton. “We’ve worked hard to make sure we put on a good showing on Friday nights.”
One down note for Elizabethton was an elbow injury to Moore, who is arguably the Cyclones’ most versatile player.
“We have a week off, so hopefully it will have time to heal,” said Witten.
The Cyclones wasted little time getting started. A seven-play, 81-yard drive ended with Ethan Thomas running through a big hole for a 6-yard touchdown.
After a three-and-out for the Longhorns, the Cyclones went to work again. This time it took just three plays to go 65 yards. Zach Moore had runs of 39 and 25 with the latter producing a 14-0 lead.
In the blink of an eye it was 21-0 as Turner found no room up the middle but bounced it outside, broke a tackle, and raced down the sidelines for a 61-yard score.
Johnson County threatened with a drive, but the Cyclones stopped them on downs before going 76 yards in six plays for another score. Thomas capped it off with his second 6-yard scoring run to make it 27-0.
Just before halftime the Cyclones went on their longest drive, an eight-play, 61-yard affair that ended with a 1-yard quarterback sneak by D.J. Arnett.
Johnson County got on the scoreboard with 23 seconds left in the game when Luke Poteet pounded into the end zone.
Patrick South finished strong for the Longhorns, totaling 109 yards on 26 carries. Quarterback Warren Kerley hit on 10 of 17 passes for 86 yards.