ELIZABETHTON — Sullivan South was welcomed into the Three Rivers Conference, and Elizabethton was the doormat.
The Rebels struck for a 70-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, and rolled to a 21-7 one-quarter decision against the Cyclones in the league’s jamboree Friday night at Rider Field.
“Sometimes you need an attention-getter,” said Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten. “We’ve got a lot of guys who don’t have Friday night experience.
“Sullivan South is excited about coming down, just like we were in 2009. They think they’re right where they need to be, and they have every right to think they’re going to come in and take over.”
It was pretty much a forgettable evening for the Cyclones. Using mostly backups and younger players, they also suffered a 14-0 defeat at the hands of Unicoi County.
In other games, Happy Valley knocked off Sullivan North by a score of 13-7 and Johnson County shut down Sullivan East 14-0.
South has been in Class AAA for all of its existence, but the Rebels dropped to Class AA this season. The Rebels’ first play under the lights was a memorable one: Quarterback Dylan Wieger hit Will Blair on a short pass, and the slot receiver turned it into a 70-yard touchdown.
After that strike, Jacob Strickler picked off Caleb Bailey’s pass on the Cyclones’ first possession. Strickler later scored on a 10-yard run to make it 14-0.
“It was good to see things like that,” said South head coach Sam Haynie of his team’s fast start. “We know it was just one quarter, but we’re glad it was a good quarter.”
On South’s third possession, Blake Christian turned a screen pass into a 54-yard gain. That set things up for Christian Comsa’s 10-yard catch in the corner of the end zone on a nice lob from Wieger to make it 21-0.
Elizabethton finally got things rolling with its second-team quarterback. Caleb Armstrong looked extremely sharp, hitting Markus Olds on a sweet down-field throw for a 51-yard gain. After Armstrong hit Isaiah Clark for 11 yards and Jeremiah Turner authored a pair of strong runs, Armstrong used a quarterback sneak to put the Cyclones on the board.
Unicoi County 14, Elizabethton 0
Luke Fronckoski put the Blue Devils ahead, capping off a nice opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down.
The Blue Devils moved it to 14-0 as backup quarterback Cody Rogers hit Richie Farmer with a 30-yard touchdown toss.
Unicoi head coach Jerad Huskins said he knew the Cyclones weren’t throwing their big guns at the Blue Devils.
“They were playing their young guys, and we got a series with our (first group),” said Huskins. “We won’t get the big head from this. That won’t be a problem. Trust me, our kids know they didn’t play their stud dogs.”
Happy Valley 13, Sullivan North 7
The Warriors looked like the aggressor at the line of scrimmage.
“We wanted to be the most physical team,” said Happy Valley head coach Larry Shively. “North has had some of the best teams in school history. We know they will be well-prepared. To physically match with them even for one quarter is a good sign.”
Happy Valley got on the board first, getting a seven-yard touchdown run from Phillip Garland after a North turnover. The point-after attempt was wide left.
The Raiders answered right back as Seth Maxwell broke a trio of tackle attempts on an outside run, scampering 53 yards for the game-tying score. Bryson Salyers put North ahead 7-6 with the extra point.
Freshman Austin Hicks put the Warriors back on top with a two-yard power run into the end zone. This time, William Luster’s extra-point was good.
Shively said he likes what he’s seeing from Hicks.
“I gave him the highest compliment: I told him he’s as good as a Greg’s Pizza,” said Shively. “The future is bright for our running game.”
Johnson County 14, Sullivan East 0
Patrick South gave the Longhorns a boost when he powered into the end zone from four yards out.
With time running out in the quarter, sophomore Justin Pardue hooked up on a nice 8-yard slant pass to Greg Roark for the other score.
“I just like the way our boys played hard,” said Longhorns’ head coach Mike Atwood. “That was the biggest thing I was looking for. And anytime you are competing, you want to come out with a win.”