With Sullivan South, Hampton and Cloudland bowing out of the TSSAA football playoffs, only Dobyns-Bennett and Elizabethton remained in the area hunt for the BlueCross Bowl — a pair of teams tied together by similar obstacles.
When the season started, it didn’t take a lot of conjecture to figure out what these teams were facing. If Dobyns-Bennett was going to create an unforgettable season, the Indians would have to beat Maryville. For Elizabethton to realize its dreams, the Cyclones would have to beat Greeneville in the playoffs.
In second-round contests Friday night, each team positioned itself for a chance to dream bigger. The Indians came from behind to defeat Knox Bearden 28-14 while the Cyclones crushed Sullivan South, 49-7.
Therefore, the Indians will play host to Maryville in the Class 6A state quarterfinals. Elizabethton will play host to Greeneville in Class 4A.
The Indians started the season with a thunderous win over Tennessee High. It was an important step, posting notice that 2019 would not resemble 2018 in any way.
More wins followed as the Indians navigated their first eight games without a four-quarter challenge.
Adversity hit in the form of Science Hill in game No. 9. The Indians didn’t perform up to their established level, suffered the upset loss, and put themselves in position to lose grip of the top spot from Region 1.
Fortunately for the Indians, the potentially critical defeat was undone when the Hilltoppers couldn’t close out the league title as they lost in Week 11 to Bearden — which looked like a pretty good football team. The same Bulldogs showed up Friday night at J. Fred Johnson Stadium and tested the Indians, carrying a 14-7 lead into halftime. But the Indians had their own case to present, owning the second half and keeping their season alive.
It was D-B’s first come-from-behind win since a 7-0 second-quarter deficit against Tennessee High, and it says a lot about the players and coaches. Trailing 14-7 at halftime in the playoffs — with no significant or recent history to say, “Hey, we’ve been here before, let’s do it again” — could be a scary place. But head coach Joey Christian and his team didn’t panic, made halftime adjustments, and won the football game.
Such steely nerves could come in handy if Maryville jumps ahead Friday.
The Cyclones’ season-opening win over Science Hill opened some eyes, but it would take seven more games before Elizabethton shook things up on a statewide level.
The Week 9 win over Greeneville, a 24-21 come-from-behind decision, pushed the Cyclones into the No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
In the following game, the Cyclones nearly lost much of the footing gained by beating Greeneville. They stumbled to a 14-13 win over a determined Sullivan South team.
It was only fair to ask the question heading in Friday’s rematch with the Rebels: Was the first game a true indicator, or was it circumstantial evidence? It only took one quarter for the jury to reach a verdict as the Cyclones built a 21-0 lead and South wasn’t able to respond.
Elizabethton proved it belongs in extremely serious contention for a state championship. But the Cyclones will have to prove it again against two-time defending state champion Greeneville.
Anderson County blocked the Cyclones from getting a second shot at Greeneville in 2017 and 2018. But Anderson wasn’t able to block Greeneville from earning another game against Elizabethton. Greeneville defeated the Mavericks, 24-7.