Back to the grind… Cyclones looking forward to getting back on the field

Published 1:24 am Friday, September 6, 2019

The Elizabethton Cyclones have had two weeks to relish in their win over Science Hill in the opening game of the 2019 prep football season and now they are starting to chomp at the bits to get back under the Friday Night Lights.
That comes tonight when the Cyclones travel to Bluff City to take on the Sullivan East Patriots in a Region 1 Class 4-A contest with a scheduled kickoff at 7:30 pm.
For Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten, the break came at a good time after his team had been so focused in the summer on taking care of business in Johnson City that they needed the time to reflect, clear their minds, and get back to work as now they have a nine-game regular-season stretch of games without a break.
“There is so much to learn from game one whether it’s good or bad,” Witten stated about his team’s time off. “We have had two weeks to settle back into the positives and the negatives and it really came at a great time because our summer preparation is just so long.
“We have so much to get ready for. This gives us a chance to go back and review. Game one sets our identity with the big win at Johnson City and now we can focus on pressing forward with the things that we kind of liked and the things that we didn’t like push those to the side,” Witten continued.
“Anytime you get a big win against Johnson City it makes the two weeks really exciting.”
Logical thinking would tell the average football fan that after a big win that a team could very well overlook the next opponent on the schedule. But, Witten and the Elizabethton coaching staff have been around long enough to know the importance of preparing for one game at a time and not take anything for granted.
“You could get complacent if it was following the Science Hill win but with it being two weeks that excitement has kind of gone away. I think our guys are hungry to get back out there and we are excited and ready to embrace the next nine weeks,” Witten stated.
“We know we aren’t going to get any type of break from here on out so we are going to have to press forward. The first game there is so much to prepare for and so much at stake. We put a lot of pressure on our guys during the summer in that game one.
“We have been able to work to create some depth with the young guys during these two weeks. With the two week layoff, I think our guys are just ready to get back out there and play.”
One area that offensively Witten wants to make sure to stay on top of is getting junior wide receiver Parker Hughes the football. Hughes only touched the ball three times in the Science Hill game and could have been five but the ‘Topper defender was so beaten by Hughes that he elected to tackle the playmaker rather than give up the long touchdowns.
“We want to get him (Hughes) the ball some more,” Witten said when asked about his plans for the beastly cut receiver. “There were two pass interference plays where the guy just basically threw him down.
“There is no question we have to get him the ball more. We got into a groove running the ball with our two quarterbacks and stayed in that.
“We were able to create some plays to get him the ball but just not enough. We know that is going to be there later in the season for us and we know without question that we have to find ways to get him the football,” continued Witten.
“He probably could have had 200 yards offense if he had caught those two passes there was pass interference on.”
One thing that stood out even before the Science Hill game began was the confidence that could be felt oozing off the offensive and defensive lines. The preparation was evident and the ‘Topper linemen couldn’t do anything more than be manhandled by the line play on both sides of the football.
“The most important thing is that we have to keep them healthy,” Witten added about his linemen. “I thought we did a good job of setting the edge and keeping (Chris) Thomas from getting to the edge. We did miss some tackles that we could have made. 
“There is no question our offensive line dictated that game from the get-go. We opened up with an 80-yard drive on 13 plays and we also had an 11 play drive covering 94 yards off of Cade’s (Maupin) interception.
“I think those two drives alone kind of wiped them out a little bit and for most of the game, we had a two-score lead. That gave us a little bit of comfort zone,” commented Witten.
“We have to do better defensively on third down. We were at 55 percent against Johnson City and didn’t quite get off the field on third down enough.”
Witten also was impressed with how fluidly his team performed in the opening game and knows that if they keep working the little kinks out, the sky will be the limit to what this team can accomplish over the remaining games of the season.
“For us offensively, we did such a great job of executing the game plan. We didn’t turn the football over and we didn’t have many negative plays and we knew where we were going,” Witten stated.
We didn’t have any mental errors which is a positive especially with the number of people we were playing on offense with multiple formations with Remington Tyree at tight end and Cameron Trimm at H-back and both of the quarterbacks alternating at running back.
It just seemed that we almost had a flawless game offensively and that’s exciting to see. If we can open up a little bit more and get our passing game going, it’s scary to think how good we can be offensively.

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