ELIZABETHTON — From start to finish, Elizabethton was no match for Sullivan North’s ground attack.
The Raiders got 191 yards rushing from junior quarterback Cory Rowe, and blasted the short-handed Cyclones 41-20 at Rider Field on Friday night.
Undefeated North (2-0, 5-0) took complete control of the Three Rivers Conference race while Elizabethton (1-1, 3-2) lost for the first time under the current league setup after 11 straight victories.
Sullivan North ran the ball 61 times and totaled 379 yards. The Raiders had a 13-play 80-yard drive in the first quarter, a 10-play 80-yard drive to start the second half, and a 13-play 90-yard drive in the fourth quarter.
“These kids expected good things to happen,” said Sullivan North head coach Robbie Norris. “It wasn’t like we were surprised.”
Certainly Elizabethton was surprised. But head coach Shawn Witten said North earned it.
“Their quarterback did a good job keeping the ball,” said Witten. “He kept us off-balance.”
Eventually the Cyclones wore down to the point where they gave up 14 yards on one quarterback sneak and 44 yards on another.
Depth was an issue as the Cyclones were basically without six position players because of the disciplinary suspensions of seniors Chad Pritchard and Zach Treadway. Both players start at defensive back positions, and they are the team’s top two receivers on offense. Also, Treadway is the long-snapper and Pritchard is the punter.
“It’s part of life,” said Witten of the suspensions. “You’ve got to do things the right way. But we still had enough good football players, so it wasn’t a factor.”
The one bright spot for Elizabethton was running back Terrence Turner. Heading into the fourth quarter, Turner had 206 yards rushing and the Cyclones had 207 yards of total offense.
Turner did not carry the ball in the fourth quarter.
Cyclones’ quarterback McKenly Berry was 0 for 11 heading into the fourth quarter with three interceptions. He went 6 of 8 in the final period for 84 yards.
Witten blamed himself for putting Berry in bad spots.
“Part of it was bad play calling,” said Witten. “I was trying to get things going in the passing game when I should have kept it on the ground with Turner. Coach Norris had a great game plan, doing some things on defense that confused us.”
The biggest thing North did on defense was sniffing out a screen pass late in the second quarter. Chase Arnold stepped in front of the attempt and raced 32 yards for a 20-14 lead with 28.5 seconds left before halftime.
“Obviously that was a big momentum play of the game,” said Norris. “The defensive staff worked on that screen on and on this week.”
Witten said the Cyclones just made too many mistakes.
“We weren’t ready, and that falls back on me,” said Witten.
Elizabethton burst onto the scene, giving the ball to Turner three straight times and he totaled 66 yards — including a 58-yard scoring run just 1:01 into the game.
However, North responded not quickly, but effectively. The Raiders used 13 plays to drive 80 yards and tie the score on Jacob Jasper’s four-yard run.
The Raiders took advantage of a fumbled snap in the second quarter, and drove 49 yards in six plays with Jasper rumbling in from 18 yards out to make it 14-7. Jasper finished with 51 yards on 10 carries.
Elizabethton seemed to regroup on Turner’s second touchdown run, this one from 30 yards out with 3:50 left in the second quarter.
However, after getting the ball back with just over one minute left, Elizabethton tried a screen pass on third down and three from its own 36. Arnold stepped in front of the receiver, picked it off, and raced untouched for the score.
Kiree Thompson scored three second-half touchdowns to seal the victory. He finished with 91 yards on 23 carries.
Drew Holsclaw caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Berry for the Cyclones’ final score with 2:55 left in the game.