Stung by a quick score on Anderson County’s first possession, the Cyclones lost senior quarterback Carter Everett to injury on their second possession, and the Mavericks went on to crush Elizabethton 54-21 in the second round of the TSSAA Class 4A playoffs Friday night.
The game, which was televised, lasted three hours and 15 minutes.
Anderson (12-0) earned a second chance against top-ranked Greeneville in next week’s quarterfinal round. The Greene Devils (12-0) grabbed their spot with a 49-7 win over Sullivan South. Greeneville made a stirring comeback from a 21-0 deficit in last year’s battle against Anderson, winning 38-35.
It was a second straight season-ender on the same field for Elizabethton, which finished 10-2. The Cyclones lost five games over the last two seasons with Anderson County and Greeneville accounting for four of those defeats.
The unknown will remain etched in history: What would Elizabethton have done if Everett hadn’t injured his back? He landed awkwardly after completing a pass, and finished 7 of 10 for 84 yards.
“On the opening drive we moved the ball down there, but didn’t get anything out of it,” said Cyclones’ head coach Shawn Witten. “We just didn’t do enough in the first half, and they kept us on our heels defensively.”
Anderson pounded the Cyclones with Ryan Moog, who carried 20 times for 247 yards and four touchdowns. Marquis Gallagher added 86 on eight carries.
Mr. Football semifinalist Stanton Martin did what he needed to do, completing 12 of 18 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 45 on the season. He also rushed for 43 yards.
It was in a losing cause, but Corey Russell left an indelible mark on the program. Moving into the quarterback position after Everett’s injury, Russell fought until the bitter end — which came in the final minute on an ankle injury.
Russell finished with 140 yards on 28 carries, completed 10 of 20 passes for 167 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, caught two passes for 15 yards, and added four kick returns for 57 yards. That’s 322 total and 349 all-purpose yards.
“He’s going to fight all the way to the end, regardless of the situations,” said Witten. “We had to have different guys step up, and it was a really good effort by our kids and by him.
“We were just happy to have that guy for four years, and we’re going to miss him along with the other seniors.”
Sophomore Parker Hughes was at the other end of Russell’s big night. He grabbed seven passes for 154 yards and scored three touchdowns.
The first possession for each team framed the outcome. Elizabethton moved the ball crisply down the field, and it appeared a good old-fashioned shootout was in store. However, after earning a first and goal at the 8-yard line, the Cyclones started moving backwards. An intentional grounding on third down forced Elizabethton to settle for a 45-yard field goal attempt, which was way short and wide left.
On Anderson’s first crack, a 47-yard run by Martin on third and nine put the ball at the Cyclones’ 13-yard line. On the next play, Martin drilled Logan Berry for a 13-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
A TURNING POINT
Elizabethton got the ball back, and Everett was hurt on a third-down conversion pass to Russell. Everett left the field and never returned. Russell threw an interception on the next play.
Six plays later, Moog romped in from 37 yards out to make it 13-0.
Before the Cyclones really regrouped, it was 27-0 after a 12-yard scoring run by Moog and a 38-yard six-strike from Martin to Michael Carroll. It was Carroll’s 20th touchdown reception of the season.
GETTING ON THE BOARD
Elizabethton finally found a breath of hope late in the first half. After forcing an Anderson punt, Russell lofted a perfect deep ball to Hughes for a 37-yard score to make it 27-7.
However, Anderson County didn’t take it lightly. They rushed back down the field and Marquis Gallagher raced in from 26 yards out. Anderson carried a 33-7 lead into the locker room.