Science Hill senior quarterback Justin Snyder rushed for 140 yards and two second-half touchdowns, helping the Hilltoppers pull away from Elizabethton for a 27-13 non-conference victory Friday night at warm and crowded Kermit Tipton Stadium.
After giving Science Hill a 7-0 halftime lead with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Alex Lundberg on the Hilltoppers’ opening possession, Snyder made it 13-0 with a 15-yard TD scramble with 10:47 left in the third quarter. His final score, a 6-yard run weaving through the congestion between the tackles, gave Science Hill a 19-6 lead with 7:20 remaining in the game.
“I’ve always had faith in him and was glad to see him do that – come out and have a great game, especially how he responded after that interception,” said Science Hill coach Stacy Carter, whose team bounced back from a season-opening loss at Greeneville.
Snyder was intercepted by Science Hill transfer Chad Pritchard, who returned it some 30 yards to the Science Hill 8-yard line for a 1st-and-goal with 4:19 left in the third quarter. But Science Hill held on a 4th-and-goal from the 1 to preserve its 7-0 lead.
Elizabethton tailback Terrence Turner said he thought he reached the goal line on the toss sweep that was strung out to his right, but said the Cyclones shouldn’t have cut it so close – feelings echoed by Elizabethton coach Shawn Witten.
“You don’t know what happened there, but we’ve got two downs from the goal line or the 1-yard line there,” Witten said. “Chad made a great interception and got it down there. I mean there’s no reason there … why it should’ve been that close.”
Science Hill defensive coordinator Ralph Nelson was obviously proud of the goal-line stand.
"We were able to get him down when we had to," Nelson said. "And that’s hard to do with this bunch. He’s a good running back."
Elizabethton was also penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after the fourth-down run, and Snyder responded by engineering a 14-play, 85-yard drive that he capped with the 15-yard scramble on a 3rd-and-13.
“I kind of peeked out of the corner of my eye and saw a hole, and I just went and it popped open,” said Snyder, who credited receiver Aaron Greene with an invaluable downfield block.
The drive lasted 5:32 and gave the Hilltoppers a 13-0 lead with 10:47 remaining in the game. (The PAT kick was wide left.) Tight end Hank Overbay made an 18-yard catch to the Elizabethon 24 on a 3rd-and-11. Overbay also caught a two-point conversion pass to conclude the game’s scoring after junior Jamal Stephens’ 29-yard TD run with 3:45 left.
Snyder was 11-of-18 passing for 204 yards. Greene had five catches for 129 yards and created a 15-yard pass interference penalty by getting open deep.
Jahmar Adams had 20 carries for 62 yards and Will Adams had 10 carries for 65 yards for the Hilltoppers. Science Hill outgained the Cyclones 218-116 in the first half, but only led 7-0.
“We just made too many mistakes the first half,” Carter said. “I mean heck, we could’ve easily been up 28 points. We had like 500 yards total offense and you’re moving it like crazy … and we’ve got to score better when we do that. It seemed like we’d do something to shoot ourself in the foot every time in the first half. When you go in seven to nothing when you should’ve probably at least scored three, it’s just tough.”
Witten thought the first half was still effective for Science Hill. The Hilltoppers' fast tempo and physical philosophy took a toll on the Cyclones defense.
“I think the key in the first half was our defense was on the field way too long,” Witten said. “We just didn’t make enough plays.”
Science Hill defensive back Luke Hampton made a play on the game’s first snap from scrimmage. He intercepted McKenly Berry to give Science Hill the ball at the Elizabethton 28. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-6, Snyder spotted Lundberg open in the end zone.
“I think the first play – the interception – just kind of took a lot out of us there,” said Witten, whose Cyclones fell to 1-1. “They’ve got a lot of great players that gave a great effort tonight, but it was a hard-fought game – it really was. … We were fortunate for it to just be seven to nothing at halftime. …
“(Snyder) is a tough quarterback and he’s a competitor. That’s one of the best things – he’s a winner, and he finds ways to win.”
Wes Montgomery had three catches for 82 yards, including a 53-yard TD pass which got the Cyclones within 13-6 with 9:48 left in the game.
Berry’s 1-yard run made it 19-13 with 6:20 remaining.
Science Hill’s O’Ryen Scott set the tone for the ensuing drive by running over a Cyclone while returning the kickoff to Science Hill’s 41.
Two plays later, Snyder ran 19 yards on 3rd-and-6 to the Elizabethton 35 with 5:03 left. After two more plays, on 3rd-and-4, the 5-foot-7, 210-pound Stephens busted through a tackler in the secondary after picking up the first down and didn’t stop until reaching the end zone. Stephens finished with 43 yards on four carries.
“He came in and got a big run there,” Carter said. “He was fresh-legged, and I thought it was a super job Jamal did. He runs through some people.”
Berry passed for 181 yards. Pritchard had six catches for 73 yards. Turner had 12 carries for 105 yards.
Todd Page-Gilmore intercepted Berry in the end zone and returned it to the Science Hill 5 with 2:14 remaining.
Tate Isbell had several tackles for minimal or negative yardage and broke up a pass. Fellow ’Toppers linebacker Grant Janeway sacked Berry for a 10-yard loss on a first down at the Science Hill 14 with about two minutes remaining in the first half. A false start penalty and a 6-yard tackle for loss by Page-Gilmore followed Janeway’s sack, and Elizabethton eventually turned it over on downs at the Science Hill 22 with 39 seconds left after gaining some 10 yards on a 4th-and-28 hook-and-ladder call.
Science Hill hosts Sullivan Central on Friday. Elizabethton visits Happy Valley.