Dobyns Bennett's Justin Sylvester eludes an Elizabethton defender and breaks away for a touchdown. The Tribe defeated the Cyclones 40-14. Photo by Ned Jilton II.
KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett running back Chris Sensabaugh wasn’t part of the school’s homecoming court Friday night at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.
He obtained a regal introduction, nevertheless.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound freshman rushed for 142 yards and three touchdowns as the Indians rolled to a 40-14 non-conference win over Elizabethton.
“It wasn’t too bad for a freshman, huh?” said D-B coach Graham Clark, who moved Sensabaugh up from the freshman squad before last week’s game with Jefferson County. “I just thought he deserved it. We watched him play on the freshman (team). I saw good things. I wasn’t going to bring him up at the start. I thought he had to earn it, and he did.”
On Friday night, he earned his keep at the rate of 15.7 yards per carry, the longest gain of his seven touches being his 71-yard scoring scramble at 10:44 in the third quarter. The Indians scored three touchdowns that period, including a 19-yard scoring run from Sensabaugh with a minute left.
The youngster scored the first varsity touchdown of his career on a 1-yard scoring plunge at 7:09 in the second quarter.
By then, it was already apparent that Clark had a keeper on his hands.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t doubt we’ll hand it to him a time or two,” Clark quipped. “You know, it ain’t heavy.”
Justin Sylvester also had a good outing, rushing for 93 yards and two scores.
He initiated scoring for the Indians with a crowd-pleasing 46-yard scoring scramble at 8:11 in the first quarter. Stair-stepping his way to the Tribe sideline, he walked the tightrope from the 35-yard line until he got past the 20. He cut back inside and veered toward the end zone with Elizabethton’s Justin Fuqua in hot pursuit. Fuqua got Sylvester in his clutches at the 1-yard line, but it wasn’t in time to keep the Indian running back from breaking the plane.
At 4:47 in the third quarter, Sylvester added a 7-yard scoring run for the Indians, who accumulated a season-high 401 yards rushing for the night.
“I thought all our backs ran hard, especially in the second half. Really, I thought our line blocked well in the first half. We got some nice creases. We just had some execution problems,” Clark said.
The Indians committed seven fumbles, four of which resulted in turnovers — and two of which contributed to D-B’s surprisingly slim 14-0 lead at the half.
In the first quarter, the Tribe had fumbles from Sylvester and quarterback Bart Ring. The latter was recovered by Elizabethton’s Bo Carter. In the second quarter, another Sylvester fumble was recovered by the Cyclones.
Lane Taylor’s fumble on D-B’s last possession of the half was recovered by the Indians. One snap later, a Ring pass attempt was picked off by Wendall Loving, ending the drive.
“We put the ball on the ground a few times. At halftime I thought we had pretty good yardage but kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Clark said. “We had a little revival at halftime to discuss that. We didn’t bring any traveling evangelists. I held most of it.”
Judging from the way the Indian offense exploded in the third quarter, the message was eloquently conveyed.
In the fourth quarter, Kingsport’s second unit added a 1-yard scoring run from Devon Sylvester.
D-B’s defense kept the Cyclones corralled for three scoreless quarters while refusing to get burned deep by Elizabethton’s speed at wideout. The Indians got an interception from Lane Dukart while getting multiple tackles for loss from linebacker Will Bateman.
The Indians also got big stops from Daniel Preston, Taylor, Alan Hinson, Robert Hogg, Clayton Kilgore, Jason Michael and Sammy Collins. Hogg also blocked a punt, which was recovered by Sterling Throp.
“I thought our defense played well most of the night,” Clark said. “It’s great to go into an off week with a homecoming win.”
Elizabethton finally scored in the fourth quarter on Cody Forbes’ 57-yard touchdown run. The Cyclones got another dramatic TD against D-B’s understudy defense when Preston Itaro took off for a 77-yard scoring run.
“Defensively, we did a good job. Offensively, we got some turnovers and didn’t make anything happen,” said Elizabethton coach Shawn Witten.
“We’re just a little undersized for Kingsport. We’re not ready for this type of football game yet, but hopefully, one day we’ll get there.”