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Battle of the Best Bowl… Jr. Cyclones close out season with heartbreaker to Greeneville, 42-40

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
GREENEVILLE – There is always that one game that as an eighth-grader one will never forget for as long as they live and for the Jr. Cyclones of T.A. Dugger Middle School that game could very well have been their final one on the field as a Jr. Cyclone.

Trailing 42-34 with 16 seconds to play, the Jr. Cyclones recovered an onside kick and marched down the field, and scored a touchdown when quarterback Rhett Slagle found Jeremiah Norris in the end zone on a hail mary with no time left on the clock and needing the all-important two-point conversion to send the game into overtime.

On the conversion, the Jr. Cyclones went with a heavy package and Jeriah Griffin followed in behind the beef as the officials said he came up minuscule inches from the goal line for the tie despite the Jr. Cyclones feeling he had punched the ball over as the Greene Devils held on for the 42-40 win.

The first half was a slobber knocker as both teams went back and forth taking turns scoring in the first 16 minutes of action.

Griffen got the Jr. Cyclones on the board first when he took the ball into the end zone from seven yards out with 4:02 left in the first quarter. William Bowers booted the point-after attempt through the uprights to make it 7-0 Jr. Cyclones.

Greeneville evened the score just before the end of the quarter when Greene Devil quarterback Carson Quillen scored on a six-yard run with 39 seconds left on the clock.

The two-point conversion failed and the score was 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.

TAD went back in front with 4:47 left before the half when Griffen high-stepped over from the one-yard line and Bowers boot made it 14-6 Jr. Cyclones.

Quillen quickly led the Greene Devils onto the scoreboard over a minute later when he rambled into pay dirt on an eight-yard run. Once again the two-point conversion failed and the Jr. Cyclones maintained a 14-12 lead.

The Jr. Cyclones took advantage of wide receiver Norris’ height and speed as Slagle found the steady Norris on a 72-yard bomb 38 seconds after the Greene Devils score to extend the lead to 21-12 on Bowers kick.

Once again, the Greene Devils loaded up another haymaker as Miller Perry lugged the pigskin 22 yards for a score. The two-point conversion was good and the Greene Devils trimmed the Jr. Cyclones lead to 21-20.

Griffin picked up his third score of the first half when he bolted in from the five-yard line to push the edge back to 28-20 when Bowers split the uprights.

Quillen matched Griffen in the half when he scored his third touchdown on a 35-yard foot race to the end zone with 22.9 seconds to play before the half. With the two-point conversion good, both teams were back to where they started – dead even at 28-28.

With the show put on by both teams in the first half, fans were on the edge of their seat to start the second and final 16 minutes of the season for both teams.

Greeneville received the opening second-half kickoff and once again it was Quillen who made the Jr. Cyclones pay as he collected a three-yard plunge to give the Greene Devils their first lead of the contest at 34-28 after the two-point conversion once again failed.

It would be the only score of the third quarter as both teams finally found some defense.

Needing a score in the final eight minutes of play, seventh-grader Jaiden Wallen muscled his way over the goal line from 19 yards out to bring the score even once again as Bowers PAT was blocked and the scoreboard read 34-34 with 4:17 left in regulation.

The Greene Devils took the ensuing kickoff at their own 40-yard line and methodically worked the ball upfield while eating up the clock before Quillen scored his fifth touchdown of the game going around the end and into the end zone from the five-yard line.

Needing the all-important two-point conversion, Greeneville turned to their offensive juggernaut as Quillen tacked on the two points making it 42-34 with 16 seconds left before the final exciting climax to the game.

“I couldn’t be prouder of those guys,” said Jr. Cyclone head coach Brock Pittman after the game. “We got quarantined for two weeks and haven’t played for three weeks and we came out and the kids never complained.

“We went back at it last week on fall break prepared and I couldn’t be prouder of the way our guys played and the way we adjusted at halftime and the way the defense stepped up.

“These kids showed their character tonight.”

The Jr. Cyclones finished 2020 with a 6-1 record.

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