Jr. Cyclones boasts big numbers for 2018

Published 1:43 pm Thursday, August 9, 2018

According to head coach Travis Smithdeal, the Jr. Cyclones have numbers on their side this season as they field 30 players on the varsity team with all but one of those being eighth graders.
Overall on both varsity and junior varsity, the Jr. Cyclones have an army of 70 players dressing out this season.
“We are definitely blessed with high numbers at T.A. Dugger,” said Smithdeal.
Coach Smithdeal has been coaching at T.A. Dugger for 15 years in both assistant and head coaching roles. Before taking the Jr. Cyclones this season, Smithdeal did a three-year stint as the T.A. Dugger head coach, and since that time, Smithdeal said that the biggest thing that has changed is the number of high level coaches the program has today.
“Coaching here is not a difficult thing at all,” said Smithdeal. “When I was the head coach last time, there was two of us coaching the varsity team. Now we have eight coaches coaching the varsity and junior varsity. And they are not just coaches, but eight quality coaches with a lot of experience. It is an easy transition.”
The coaches at T.A. Dugger work hard to get the Jr. Cyclones ready for the next level where they will possibly play for head coach Shawn Witten at Elizabethton High School said Smithdeal.
“We do all that we can to get them ready,” said Smithdeal. “Coach Ryan Witten helps a lot. He is up in the press box on Friday night’s helping Shawn call the offense. He knows most of the plays in the playbook, and we run most of the same plays. It gets them started in the program early and creates a lot of excitement.”
Running the offense this season will be eighth-grader Dalton Mitchell as he steps into the quarterback role. This will be Mitchell’s third season as a quarterback, and he played as the varsity QB in 2017.
“He is very used to varsity football,” said Smithdeal about Mitchell. “He has just grown up a whole lot in the three years that he has been here. He is very talented, very athletic, and very competitive.”
Carrying the ball in the running back slot will be eighth-graders Cade Russell, Nate Stevens, Sean Smithdeal, and Hayden Nave.
“I don’t think I have coached a team that has this many athletes,” said Smithdeal. “It is a huge blessing. We are really fortunate in the backfield this year.”
Along with a plentiful amount of options in the run game, the Jr. Cyclones will a have a large group of targets in the passing game, said Smithdeal. Lining up in the receiver spots will be eighth graders, Josh Swiney, Peyton Johnson, Kordell Kandoje, Alex Gouge and Jack Farris.
“One of the nice things, is that we can throw it almost as good as we can run it,” said Smithdeal. “Dalton at quarterback likes to sling the ball down field. We are pretty heavy at receivers. And again we are very fortunate to have good numbers along with new players coming up.”
The Jr. Cyclones offensive line is anchored by Sam Bowers, who started on the varsity as a seventh-grader last season. Others filling out the ranks up front will be eighth-grader Dylan McDuffie (center), seventh grader Josh Hayes, Alex Hurley, Will Taylor, and Bradley Cannon (tight end). Like all the other positions, Smithdeal said the line positions are deep this year and could see many players get in on the mix.
The Jr. Cyclones will have some players whose primary roles will be on the defensive side of the ball. One of those players will be eighth-grader Wesley Shankles as he takes to the field as an inside linebacker. Nave will see time at many positions as he plays at defensive end, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and possibly at nose tackle. Russell will also be another big contributor on defense at the linebacker and safety position. Cannon will also report as a defensive end. Farris and Stevens will lockdown the corner positions.
In 2017, the Jr. Cyclones went untouched in the conference while only dropping one game the whole season. Coach Smithdeal said the Jr. Cyclones hope to carry over last year’s successes to 2018.
“The good thing about last year is we had some of this year’s eighth-graders play varsity as seventh graders,” said Smithdeal. “That goes a long way. With that in mind, our conference is always difficult, and you can’t ever assume anything.”
The Jr. Cyclones will open up their season on Thursday, Aug. 23 at John Sevier.

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