It was an accomplished mission for the Cyclone football team.
Elizabethton jumped out to an early lead and never looked back en route to their second consecutive Class 4A State Championship with a 41-14 victory over Haywood on Saturday afternoon in BlueCross Bowl action in Cookeville in front of a large contingent of Cyclone Nation.
The Cyclones finished the 2020 season with a perfect 15-0 and have won 30 straight games. It is the program’s third state title (1938, 2019, 2020).
In the early going, it was all Elizabethton.
EHS got on the board on the opening drive of the game when Parker Hughes shrugged off a group of Tomcat defenders and raced 53 yards for the touchdown just over a minute into the game. Sean Smithdeal added the extra point.
After Parker Hughes stopped Haywood’s opening drive with an interception, the Cyclones struck again three plays later as Jake Roberts hauled in a 70-yard pass from Rollins to push EHS to a 14-0 lead.
The Cyclone defense, led by Deuce Morton, forced a quick Haywood three-and-out. Rollins pushed the Elizabethton lead to 21-0 with a two-yard run with just over two minutes remaining in the quarter.
Haywood broke onto the board after a 14-play drive covered 84 yards to trim the EHS lead to 14 points with 8:28 remaining in the half.
The Cyclones were forced to punt their first possession of the quarter, but Roberts made a key defensive play with an interception to halt the Tomcat drive.
The EHS offense went to work with a nine-play drive that ended with 10 seconds left in the half when Rollins hit an open Hughes in the endzone for a 15-yard touchdown pass.
The Smithdeal extra point gave Elizabethton a 28-7 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, the teams traded possessions until Roberts made his presence felt again in just 10 seconds of game time.
The junior picked up a Haywood fumble and raced 82 yards for the scoop and score – a new state championship record – with 4:51 on the clock.
Roberts struck again on the next offensive play as he stepped in front of a Haywood pass and returned it 21 yards for the score to give EHS a 41-7 lead with 4:41 left in the third quarter.
The Tomcats settled down and embarked on a 14-play drive that took over five minutes off the clock, but the Cyclone defense held firm on fourth down to leave Haywood empty-handed. After EHS was forced to punt, Haywood got back on the board with 6:47 remaining to cut into the EHS lead, but the Cyclones ran out the final 6:47 to secure their second straight title.
Roberts was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player as he recorded three touchdowns – two of which came on the defensive side of the ball.
Rollins finished the game 9-of-13 passing for 172 yards and two touchdowns, while Hughes had five catches for 75 yards and added 66 yards on eight carries with a combined two touchdowns.
Cade Russell finished with 76 yards on 14 carries.
Morton led the EHS defense with 10.5 tackles, while Blake Stewart tallied 9.5 tackles.
Haywood’s Kylan Newbern was 10-of-16 passing for 104 yards with 53 yards rushing on 12 carries.
As a team, Elizabethton outgained the Tomcats 345-294.