Elizabethton, the newly minted top-ranked football team in Class 4A, survived a big scare at home on senior night Friday, winning 14-13 over Sullivan South.
Senior Carson Streseman blocked the potential game-tying extra point after a false-start penalty on the initial try. The ball was moved back five yards, then Streseman burst through the line and get his big paws on the ball and preserve the Cyclones’ perfect record.
“That was a huge play and probably the biggest play of my career,” Streseman said. “Knowing that they could tie or get the lead if they got the ball back, I knew I had to make a play. … I talked to the guy in front of me and we both did our jobs on the second try.”
The Cyclones (9-0), who wrapped up Region 1-4A’s top playoff seed and no less than a share of the league title with a 5-0 mark, got the ball back with 2:15 left on the clock and were able to gain a pair of first downs to run out the clock.
“Hats off to our defense tonight. They really played a great game and made some big stops,” Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten said. “South is a really good team and sometimes you have to battle and find a way. If you’re going to win a championship, you’re going to have to have some breaks and have some plays go your way. We hung in there tonight and were able to make some plays.”
The Cyclones had only a 7-0 lead at the half and were befuddled by the South game plan of trying to keep the Cyclone offense off the field.
The only score was a 41-yard pass from Bryson Rollins to Parker Hughes in the flat. It was a play that had a great seal block to get Hughes in the open field.
Rollins finished the evening going 7- of 15 for 170 yards while Hughes had a big night with five catches for 111 yards. Hughes went down with 9:36 left in the game with what appeared to be a lower-leg injury.
Eli Topping tied the game for South with a 1-yard run with 3:46 left in the third quarter, capping off a seven-play, 92-yard scoring drive. It was all set up by a big pass from Ethan Bergeron to Brody Ratliff for 73 yards to Elizabethton’s 5-yard line. For the night, Bergeron was 11 of 18 for 190 yards and one rushing score.
One noticeable bright spot for the Rebels (5-4, 4-2) was the move of Cam Necessary from the offensive line to tight end and he certainly made an impact. He caught six passes for 103 yards and bowled over many Cyclone defenders with his huge 6-5, 275-pound frame.
Cade Maupin responded to the South score with a 73-yard TD scamper with 2:09 left, putting the Cyclones back up 14-7. Maupin finished with 21 carries for 172 yards.
“Our guys really bought in tonight,” Sullivan South head coach Justin Hilton said. “A lot of the time, you worry about the team going up against a good football team like this. Our guys came in and wanted to win the game; they weren’t satisfied with just keeping it close.”
The Rebels were coming into the game having played the top-ranked 4A team in two of the last three weeks. There were two different animals, according to Hilton.
“Elizabethton is a good team and Greeneville is a good team, but it’s always good to play teams like them year in and year out,” he said. “You really know how you stand as a football team going up against the best.”
The yardage was tight as Elizabethton outagined South 306 to 300, but the Rebels had 15 first downs to ’Betsy’s eight.
The Cyclones will try for their first perfect regular season since 1951 next week as they travel to Sullivan Central. Sullivan South has another tall task, going to Bristol to take on Tennessee High.