The Nolensville Knights football team (10-4, 5-1) fell at home in a disappointing loss on Friday night to the Elizabethton Fighting Cyclones in the TSSAA 4A semifinal playoffs (14-0, 6-0), 56-21.
This marks two years in a row that the Knights have made the semifinals of 4A classification, and the second time they've lost to Elizabethton at this stage.
“I am extremely proud of our kids,” said Nolensville head coach Paul Derrick. “This was not the outcome we wanted. For our group to make the run we made and the way this team came together, I will take that. With everything we had to go through this season and not knowing if we were going to have a season, this team will always be special to me.”
Elizabethton started the scoring on their first drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Bryson Rollins to Troy Parker to take an early 7-0 lead.
With 1:06 remaining in the first quarter, the Fighting Cyclones continued to surge, moving the ball down the field on a drive capped off with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Rollins to extend their lead 14-0.
The scoring spree continued in the second quarter for Elizabethton, with an electric 85-yard touchdown run by senior running back Parker Hughes to stretch the Fighting Cyclones lead to 21-0.
Nolensville got on the board late in the second quarter with a 25-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Ryder Gallardi to wide receiver Parker Price to cut into the Elizabethton lead 21-7.
With 1:24 remaining in the second quarter, Elizabethton continued to roll with a 61-yard touchdown pass from Rollins to Jake Roberts, pushing the lead 28-7 into halftime.
Nolensville got off to a hot start in the second half with a scoring drive resulting in a four-yard wildcat touchdown run by sophomore running back Samson Johnson to cut the Fighting Cyclones lead 28-14.
“The wildcat has been a good play for us all year,” said Coach Derrick. “For whatever reason, people have not been able to stop it. Samson is a good runner and does a great job of finding the crease to sneak up in. He has done well this year as our feature back. I am extremely happy that he is back in the backfield for two more years.”
With 7:17 remaining in the third quarter, Rollins lead Elizabethton down the field and forced his way into the end zone with a 2-yard rushing touchdown to stretch the lead 35-14.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Fighting Cyclones offense continued to churn, executing a drive ending in a 12-yard rushing touchdown by Hughes to lengthen the Elizabethton lead 42-14.
Sophomore running back Nate Stephens contributed to the Cyclones offense with a rushing touchdown near the halfway point of the fourth quarter to extend the Elizabethton lead 49-14.
The Knights continued to show life with a rushing touchdown by Gallardi, a Long Island University commit, to cut into the Cyclones lead 49-21.
“He is a competitor,” said Coach Derrick. “He is a great kid and teammate. What he has given to Nolensville High School over the last four years is pretty special. I extremely proud of what he was able to accomplish.”
Elizabethton’s running back, Stephens, capitalized on a scoring opportunity late in the game with his second rushing touchdown, making the final score 56-21.
This game ended the season for the Knights, but they will move up and compete in the 5A classification next year.
“The seniors have meant everything and put a lot into our program,” said Coach Derrick. “For them to be a part of the team that went to the semifinals last year and then get back there this year, it speaks volumes for that group and how hard they work.
"I hope we can build off what we have been able to do in 4A. We have made the playoffs every year and made a great run the last two years. Hopefully we can use that momentum and experience to continue to have success.”