The road to the BlueCross Bowl… Cyclones prepared and ready for second meeting with South in Round 2 Playoffs

Published 1:05 am Friday, November 15, 2019

Three weeks ago, the Elizabethton Cyclones knew exactly how the three little pigs felt when the big, bad wolf came to blow their house down as the Cyclones barely escaped the Sullivan South Rebels by the hair of their chinny, chin, chin thanks to Carson Streseman getting his fingertips on a point-after attempt with very little time on the clock to preserve a 14-13 win.
Move ahead three weeks and now the Cyclones are ready to make amends for that poor showing as they host the Rebels in a second-round playoff game tonight at Citizens Bank Stadium with a 7 pm kickoff.
The winner moves on to next week’s quarterfinals against the winner of the Greeneville and Anderson County contest also being played tonight in Clinton.
Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten in reviewing the first meeting realized that the real Elizabethton team didn’t show up to play in the first meeting and believes strongly things will be different this time around.
“I know we missed some opportunities and we didn’t really play well,” Witten said. “Defensively, we hung in there and they kind of caught us off guard with Necessary at tight end.
“We punted six times and didn’t convert two third-and-ones, we didn’t convert a fourth-and-one which is unlike us characteristically offensively. We missed two deep balls to Parker (Hughes) that went off the fingertips.
“We just left a lot of plays out there and that was the one and only game where our offense didn’t produce any kind of big numbers and struggled the entire night to get anything going.”
Witten in no way wants to take anything away from the Rebels and their effort in the first game but in looking in the rearview mirror, the Rebels have to know they didn’t get the best effort from a team that was ranked number one in the state at the time.
“I think for us it gives us a chance as we have built some momentum in the last couple of weeks and I think those guys at South know that we didn’t play really well and if we can put a game together, it will be tough for them to hang with us,” Witten stated.
“The last two years where they have had to go to Chattanooga shows they are a mentally tough team when you can win on the road like they did. I think that when you have everybody healthy, you are a completely different team.
With Reed being healthy and South obviously being pretty big, it gives you some challenges there but the thing about it is at this stage its hard to evaluate teams that are 6-5,” Witten continued.
“They beat Cherokee by two points and at Bristol, they got beat 42-7 the week after us. We have just got to find ways to get out on them early. South definitely knows they can play with us and it’s going to be a great challenge and I am sure they are going to have some new wrinkles to throw at us this week.
“To travel that far two years in a row and get big wins, they probably played their best game against us three weeks ago but at the same time, it’s tough to play the same team twice. It’s tough to play the same team within three weeks of each other so how much can you change in three weeks to do what you do.”
One thing that is playing in the Cyclones favor this week is that junior wideout Hughes will be back out on the field after sitting the last three games due to an ankle injury. Having Hughes’s playmaking abilities available to go along with the other playmakers that have stepped up in his absence will pay huge dividends tonight.
“Our defense has played so great over the last month or so if we can get any offensive production like we did last week against East Ridge it really separates us. And with Parker coming back this week that’s going to give us a big lift,” stated Witten.
“Zach C. Hartley gave us a big lift last week and our preparation and practices have been sharp. I think that we are a different football team when Bryson is really involved in our offense – running and throwing it and active with his feet making a lot of plays moving around.
“Sometimes you don’t like it but it makes it tough for defenses to stop us because it’s just a part of his game that they can’t seem to put a finger on how to stop him when he starts to move and make plays.”
Witten admitted that with the Cyclones fast start that they may have become a little lackadaisical but is feeling great about where his team stands going into the 12th week of play for 2019.
“Defensively, from week to week you got to get prepared for your responsibilities and start settling in and we started so off the chart that we started to filter down a little bit with some complacency and got a little comfortable,” said Witten.
“We have really lit a fire under our guys this week and Coach (Jeff) Pierce has really challenged that offensive line and we continue to build a lot of confidence and that’s the biggest thing.
“As long as we don’t turn over the football and Bryson knows where he is going with the football, then we are a tough team to beat. I really like where our football team is at playing at home.”
Another big milestone hangs in the balance tonight as with a win, it would be the first 12-win season in the history of Cyclone football.
“We are going for a record this week with 12 wins and to get to 12-0 will be unreal and then the opportunity to be here next week for the quarterfinals, I expect our guys to be really ready,” Witten commented. “South will make it difficult for us because they are so big and strong.
“What they did last week against East Hamilton wasn’t even similar to the way they played against us so they have been playing differently offensively for three weeks now.”

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