2019 Class 4A BlueCross Bowl Championship Put up or shut up… Cyclones hoping to take the sting out of Yellow Jackets and earn state title

Published 12:59 am Friday, December 6, 2019

For 14 games the Elizabethton Cyclones have been perfect. Not in the fact that they haven’t made a few miscues along the way but they have found ways to overcome adversity to move from game one to game 14 and remain unblemished.
With the final game of the 2019 season slated in less than 36 hours in Cookeville in the 2019 Class 4A BlueCross Bowl Championship at Tucker Stadium on the campus of Tennessee Tech, the Cyclones have one team standing between them and the elusive championship that 81 teams of Cyclones have tried before to secure but fell short.
That team is another team of destiny as well because the Springfield Yellow Jackets by all stories told leading into Saturday’s game should have been eliminated two weeks ago but yet here they are.
And they like Elizabethton have the same goal and dream and that is to be state champions.
Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten says that even though this is an exciting time, it’s also a time to stay the course with eyes wide open.
“There is a lot of nervous excitement you know. Its a lot of excitement to be out there for the kids but at the same time there is a lot of preparation especially with the extra days,” Witten said.
“When you get to this point you have a couple of extra days to prepare for Saturday’s game. You have to be ready for the unexpected. Don’t expect a lot of change for both teams that have gotten here.”
Cyclone fever has been running rampant as on the first two days of ticket sales, the Cyclone athletic department sold all 1500 of the tickets they had received and were waiting late Wednesday afternoon for more tickets to arrive to meet the needs of Cyclone Nation.
The excitement continues to reach a crescendo as Saturday gets closer and closer and it is also one of the things that the Cyclone coaching staff has to battle daily in keeping their kids at an even keel as they prepare for the biggest game of their young lives.
“There is so much talk and so much excitement that when the kids come to practice, the kids have got to go out there on the practice field and know that we have to practice and prepare to be ready to go,” added Witten.
“I think the biggest thing for us is that you have to treat it like a normal week. You go about your business the same. I think there has really been a stress for the coaches because we have to get the most out of the guys in practice.
“We have to make them put blinders on and dial into what they have to do to execute and win this game,” continued Witten. “There is a lot of people making a lot of plans to come and see us play and its a lot like a homecoming game in that there is a game at the end of the celebration.
“There are a lot of people that are excited for us and rightfully so but we are not just satisfied with being in this game. We want to go down there and win it.”
But to win the title means that the Cyclones have a heavy task in front of them in stopping a lightning-quick Yellow Jacket team that defeated Haywood County in overtime last week to advance. Haywood was all but slated into the championship before the Yellow Jackets put the stinger in them last week.
“Their speed and athleticism is a concerning part,” Witten stated. “There are a lot of similarities between us and Greeneville in some ways.
“They are 25 miles north of Nashville so they have some really good speed and athleticism. They have nine seniors that was supposed to win it last year and got upset in the semifinals.
“Springfield is also a team that played Greeneville in 2017. Three years in a row they have been in the semifinals so they are just a really good football team.
“They are well-coached and the kids play extremely hard. Some of the interior positions- center/guards and defensive tackles are big but everywhere else is just a lot of speed and athleticism,” continued Witten.
“Those guys are really well-coached and disciplined. They run the football extremely well and they beat a really good Haywood team that was expected to be in the state championship from the west side.”
With all the talk from the restaurants to the gas stations and from Wal-Mart to the barbershop surrounding this game, Witten was asked if all the buzz would be a distraction to his team.
” I guess you will find out Saturday,” said Witten with a chuckle. “It’s good we have had time to prepare. You just take it day by day and slowly insert your game plans. You hope not. You hope the guys understand what type of opportunity that we have and how special it is and how hard it is to get here.
“I think the guys realize that there may not be another tomorrow or another next year to get to the state championship so we want to take advantage of that.
“The biggest thing during the course of the week is that we want to keep guys healthy and keep them ready to go and get them to Saturday. There is not a lot of contact that needs to take place this week,” Witten added.
“It’s more about making alignments and assignments and preparation and making sure all our backup guys are ready to go.
“All year long we have tried to make sure not to use guys both sides of the ball but I think at this point and time that guys like Joseph Kechter and Carson Streseman, we need to use their strengths to try to find ways to help other people find ways to win this football game for us.”
With the show of support from the Cyclone faithful in all the tickets that have been purchased for the game, Witten was asked if seeing the large number of people making preparations to come to Cookeville and cheer on the Cyclones brings on any additional pressure.
“The first thing it tells me is that its more preparation. These people are making plans to come see us play and they are expecting us to win this thing. I think that they have full confidence in us or they wouldn’t be making arrangements to travel that far to see us,” said Witten.
“As a coach, it makes you want to work harder and make these people right. We want to make them proud and go down there and win it.
“I have told these guys all along there has been tons of excitement and there should be but we are playing a really good football team and it’s so hard to get here and there are a lot of things that have to go your way.
“We have been fortunate all year that we do belong here but we have to win this thing together as a team,” Witten continued. “We have to do whatever it takes to win and whether that’s some guys are focal points and some guys aren’t, they have to be able to play their roles and do their jobs.”
Kickoff is slated for 4 pm local time.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox