ELIZABETHTON — Fifteen seconds into the game, Johnson County was in trouble.
Eighteen plays later, it was pretty much over.
Elizabethton had three pick sixes in the first half — two by Markus Olds — and rolled to a 42-13 victory in the first round of the TSSAA Class 3A football playoffs at Rider Field on Friday night.
The Cyclones scored 35 points in the first quarter.
“That's our game, starting fast,” said Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten, whose team won its ninth straight game. “We came in with a lot of momentum and home-field advantage. This is a credit to the coaching staff and the 17 seniors. We've got something to prove.”
The Cyclones improved to 9-2 on the season, and will play host to Gatlinburg-Pittman in the second round. Pittman (7-4) hammered Chuckey-Doak, 48-21.
Johnson County lost its fourth straight game, and saw its season end with a record of 4-7.
On the first play from scrimmage, Terrence Turner went up the middle, made a cut, and ran to daylight for a 71-yard score.
“We just couldn't tackle those running backs,” said Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood. “On that first play we had everybody in the box. We decided to take a chance, and it just didn't work out.
“We not quite to Elizabethton's level yet. In years past we had football teams that could compete with them, but Elizabethton is going to go a long way in the playoffs this year.”
On Johnson County's first possession, Olds picked off a tipped pass and raced 35 yards to make it 14-0.
“I got blinded by the lights, but the ball just came down in my hands, and I just took off,” said Olds. “I didn't think I could make it into the end zone, but the linemen started blocking and I made it.”
Olds finished the game with two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
“Coach told me to step up,” said Olds. “I just tried to do that, and I did what I could do.”
Said Witten, “Olds is the kind of guy who has been the X factor all year. I'm proud of how he has grown up as a sophomore.”
After a Longhorns' punt, Ethan Thomas battered Johnson County's defense for a few runs before Turner bounced into paydirt from 10 yards out to make it 21-0.
Two plays later, Zach Moore — returning to the lineup just three weeks after suffering a dislocated elbow — picked off a Warren Kerley pass and raced 45 yards into the end zone.
Johnson County fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, and Olds pounced on it at the Longhorns' 27-yard line. Four plays later, Thomas burrowed into the end zone to make it 35-0.
The Cyclones fumbled on their next drive, deep in Johnson County territory. However, three plays later Olds picked off a pass and danced 12 yards for a score.
“We have been watching films, and I knew it would be there,” said Olds. “I just read it and took it to the end zone.”
Turner led the Cyclones' rushing attack with three carries for 101 yards. Thomas missed 100 yards for the first time this season, finishing with 76 on eight carries — all coming in the first quarter.
Senior place-kicker Christine Hardin knocked home all six extra points, and has made 14 of 14 attempts in the last two weeks.
Johnson County finally got on the scoreboard when Luke Poteet barreled into the end zone from one yard out with 4:08 left in the game.
On the game's final play from Elizabethton's 42-yard line, Kerley hit River Cazire with a short pass. Cazire latereled the ball to a streaking Chase Kleine, who raced 30 yards into the end zone.
Patrick South led the Longhorns with 13 carries for 47 yards. Kerley was 6-of-14 passing for 108 yards.