Cyclones face tough opponent on opening night

Published 9:37 am Friday, August 28, 2015

Elizabethton quarterback Hunter Tyree rolls out of the pocket during the Cyclones scrimmage against Morristown West on Friday at Dave Rider Field.

Elizabethton quarterback Hunter Tyree rolls out of the pocket during the Cyclones scrimmage against Morristown West on Friday at Dave Rider Field.

The clock is ticking down the waning minutes leading up to the first game of the year for the Elizabethton Cyclones and the Science Hill Hilltoppers as Coach Shawn Witten and squad make the trip to Kermit Tipton Stadium in Johnson City for a 7:30 kickoff tonight.
Many fans remember the last trip to Johnson City as the Cyclones appeared to win the game as Ethan Thomas lunged over the goal line from the one-yard line only to be whistled short according to the referees in a gut-wrenching defeat.
Tonight, the Cyclones are looking to get off on the right foot with a win against an always tough ‘Topper team coached by Stacy Carter who always seems to be a thorn in the flesh for past Cyclone teams.
“I think it is really a difficult task to open up with Science Hill which has presented a different sense of urgency in the summer practices,” said Witten. “It’s been an attention getter because with the first game there are always so many things to cover.
“Things like the kicking assignments and having time to work on those is extremely important. We have been working a long time to get ready for this game.”
With the departure of ‘Topper quarterback Malik McGue who has tormented the Cyclones the last two seasons, many may think that this could be the year the Cyclones end a string of losses.
The problem lies in the fact that Justin Bedard (6’2, 215 Sr.) brings another dilemma for opposing defenses in moving to the quarterback slot from running back as Bedard brings a bullish running game along with a strong arm to the position.
“Justin is definitely one of the better players in East Tennessee this year,” stated Witten. “He has some intangibles. He is a weapon running the football because he is a load to tackle and has a loaded arm. He is a lot like Dylan Wieger from South last year.”
Offensively, the Cyclones will have their hands full with a very talented and deep group of ‘Topper linebackers led by Costa Kalogeros (6’0, 205 Sr.). This group will be a real early test for the Cyclone offensive line and the blocking backs out of the backfield.
Meanwhile, Elizabethton has its own capable field general in Hunter Tyree (5’11, 165 Sr.). Tyree has been waiting his opportunity the last three seasons and this season will be handed the reins to run the Cyclone playbook.
“Hunter knows what I expect and it’s important for him to run the offense and not be the hero every play,” added Witten on his signal caller. “I look for him to be the leader on offense. He’s a tough kid who is not afraid to run it and has gotten up from a lot of tough licks.
“He has football savvy. He has a got a quick release on his throws. Hunter has to play well for us to be successful.”
Elizabethton will also be looking to a couple of new starters in the backfield to create heartburn for opposing defenses after returning senior Caleb Jones was injured in a jet skiing accident and lost for the season.
Jeremiah Turner (6’0, 185 Sr.) and Jacob Turner (6’1, 185 Jr.) are looking to a huge offensive line to create the holes that will allow them to run effectively in the 2015 season. Witten feels that the Turners are ready for the challenge.
“It will all start up front on the offensive line getting the push needed for us to run the football,” said Witten. “Both of them can run inside or outside. Our offensive line has to dictate that.
“A lot of guys have stepped up and taken on different roles. They have come to me and asked to add more work to their assignments.”
When asked what it would take for the Cyclones to win their opening game, Witten said it all comes down to getting off on the right foot from the get go.
“We have to get off to a good start. The last couple of years it has come down to us just trying to weather the storm. They scored too much and too fast. We are going to have to find out what works and stick with it.
“As a coaching staff, we have to stick to our game plan and do what we do the best.”

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