Cyclones to face stiff competition from a revamped Boone team

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, September 8, 2016


It was a Nightmare on Elm Street football season for the 2015 Daniel Boone Trailblazers as the team spiraled to a wretched 1-9 season. Elizabethton played a part in that nightmare by taking care of the ‘Blazers 21-7 inside the newly opened Citizens Bank Stadium.

One year removed, Boone has done an 180-degree turnaround winning its first two games over Sullivan South and Cherokee and now await the Cyclones who will travel to Gray on Friday night to take on Coach Jeremy Jenkins and his rested Boone team.

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Needless to say, the Cyclones have to be ready to take care of business or it could be a long night on the road.

“We are going to need a great week of practice this week with a lot of focus,” stated Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten. “This is kind of like a hump game for us. Boone was a 1-9 team one year ago and now are off to a 2-0 start, and they have had two weeks to prepare for us and have been really playing well.”

A lot of that turnaround, according to Witten, has been the result of 24 juniors in the 2015 campaign growing up to become 24 seniors this season.

“They have 24 seniors, and I always tell the guys you are never in a tough spot until you go 1-9,” continued Witten. “How do you respond—those guys were all juniors one year ago and now are seniors.

“They have played two really good teams in South and Cherokee and any time a team has two weeks to prepare for you it’s big,” added Witten. “It’s a pivotal game for us. It’s a game where we are probably supposed to win and picked to win, but we have got to go out there and do it.”

Many Cyclone fans remember a few years back when the Cyclones were heavily favored and went to Gray for a showdown with the ‘Blazers only to be sent back to Elizabethton with a loss.

It was a memory not lost on Witten when talking about how hard it is to play the ‘Blazers on their home turf.

“It’s always a tough place to play, and I think one of the toughest losses we have ever had since we have been here was in 2012 at their place,” stated Witten. “We went over there and racked up a lot of yards, but didn’t score that often.

“They ended up beating us. Since then, we’ve been able to handle them pretty good, but it’s a feisty bunch. They run the football pretty good and are playing good defense. They have a lot of big kids this year—a lot of linebackers and on film, the kids are playing really hard.”

Boone has been led this season by junior signal caller Noah Shelton (6’4, 190) and senior running back Mouin Tannous (5’9, 175) in the backfield while senior Jake Chandler (6’1, 185) and junior C.J. Carter (5’11, 175) offer Shelton a couple of options at the wide receiver position.

Also, the line is solid on both the offensive and defensive side of the football according to Witten.

“The running backs really lower their shoulder and fight for extra yards,” Witten said about the ‘Blazer backfield. “The quarterback, Shelton, is a big-time player and he’s making a lot of plays for them. He’s a punter and plays some safety. He does a good job of managing the football.”

Unlike the Cyclones, the ‘Blazers are a patient team that doesn’t really try to out-tempo their opposition. Boone likes to play at an even keel which sometimes can be dangerous to their opposition.

“They are pretty balanced but not as fast as Science Hill,” stated Witten. “They are bigger and just downhill and really physical and more at the point of attack. Four yards for them and their offense is really good. Just a slow tempo—run, run, run and then they will try to sneak one over your head.

“They do a good job. Jeremy has always been a huge guy of play-action pass and then tries to go deep,” Witten added. “I just think it’s a pivotal game for us. A 5-A school who is responding from a bad season one year ago. It’s like a trap game for us. We are supposed to win, but they have a way of making a game of it, and the more you let a team like that hang around, the more they will make a game of it and harder to put away.”

Witten was quick to point out that the Cyclones will need the second level defenders to step up and be more aggressive to ensure that the ‘Blazers don’t create big plays after getting past the Cyclone initial line of defense.

“They are going to try and lull us to sleep,” Witten said reflecting on the way Boone likes to play. “What is pivotal for us is our second level guys. Our linebackers and secondary are going to have to do a better job of tackling in space.

“We are relying on our big guys up front to make a lot of plays and once the play gets away from them we have to do a better job of making a play on the edge. Johnson Co. and Science Hill’s biggest plays were after they got away from our line.”

Witten also felt like his team has had opportunities to make big plays go by the wayside due to the Cyclones inability to spring the backs for long gainers on the ends. It is something that the coaching staff has been steadily working on.

“Offensively, we have to do a better job of blocking on the edge because the ball is getting out there quite a bit, and we have the speed to take it the distance,” Witten continued. “You emphasize things every week and this week that would be doing better tackling on the edges and the receivers have to do a better job of blocking to try and use our speed and quickness.”

Overall, Witten felt like the equation was simple for his team to be successful against the improving ‘Blazer team.

“We have to get off to a great start because the longer you let those teams hang around, its gets tough. Also, we have to work against turning the football over. We have been sloppy handling the football.

“We need to take the lead and force them to change their game plan up,” added Witten. “We need to get off to a great tempo. Boone is hungry and it’s going to be a big season for their 24 seniors.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm in Gray.