Cyclones looking to continue growth heading into Grainger showdown

Published 12:01 am Friday, September 20, 2019

After facing a good team last week in Daniel Boone and finding out a little bit more about their internal makeup in handling some adversity in different facets of the game, the Elizabethton Cyclones are ready to jump right back into District 1-AAAA play tonight when they host the Grainger County Grizzlies to Citizens Bank Stadium.
Still fresh on their mind is last year’s contest where the Grizzlies mounted a 20-plus play drive that kept the Cyclone offense handcuffed on the sideline and how the Cyclones have a  renewed desire this season to get off the field on third downs defensively.
“I think there is,” said Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten when asked about the need of improving week in and week out. “Three games in a row we have kind of given them some easy plays and there was a time in the first half where we could have really put the game away if we had gotten some more stops.
“It’s still a learning curve for some of our guys. We are doing a great job taking some of the things away defensively, it’s just things like we have to continue to tackle well and rally around the football.
“Every game we are getting better at it. It was a tremendous effort by Boone, they really challenged us in some ways. Its always good to go back and make some improvements.”
Witten was happy with the way his team responded to some adversity in the contest especially with the issues surrounding numerous holds on the Boone offensive line which weren’t called throughout the game.
“We still have a lot of improvement in certain situations but I loved how our guys handled a little bit of adversity Friday night and I loved how we responded,” stated Witten. “We put our defense in a couple of bad situations.
“I think three field goals against Johnson City and one against Sullivan East and three more Friday night against Boone is pretty impressive for our defense to keep points off the board.”
Offensively, the Cyclones continue to thrive under new quarterback Bryson Rollins who has shown immense growth over the last three games and has proven to be a threat with either his legs or his arm.
Witten spoke of his quarterback’s development to this stage of the season.
“He made some plays for us early on with his feet and he seems to be getting more comfortable,” noted Witten. “He and I have spent a lot of time just getting to know each other and building a relationship and making sure he is comfortable knowing with where to go with the football and making the right reads.
“He did a great job and he stayed poised and didn’t get rattled in any situation. He looked comfortable the whole game.”
The Cyclone mentor noted that one of the things that he has noticed is that his team seems to be playing a little tight. He hopes that with the Grainger contest that his team will settle in and just let the game come to them.
“They are a lot like Sullivan East with the Wing-T and it gives us another chance to get some stops,” said Witten. “They are a team that’s going to run the football at us. Last year they went on one drive that was a 22-play drive.
“What I really want to see on Friday is us to come out and play really well and loose. I still think at times that we play tensed up and I know that it’s because our guys have worked so hard and want it so bad, but I think that we just need to let the game come to us a little bit.
“We are forcing plays and we just want it really so bad,” continued Witten. “They want to do well and do well for their teammates.”
Witten still emphasizes the importance of his team not peaking to early and staying the course.
“Where we are right now, we have seen flashes where we are really good and we have seen flashes where we need to improve and we need to take a combination of the two.
“But we are striving to really be peaking at the right time and hopefully, tonight’s game will give us a chance to settle down at home and take advantage of the opportunities.”
Kickoff for tonight’s game is 7:30 pm and will be ‘Go Gold Night’ to bring awareness to childhood cancer month.

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