A glimpse ahead in local sports for 2020

Published 12:11 am Monday, January 6, 2020

As baby steps have been taken into a brand new year, many athletes will now look ahead to getting into a more settled pattern after many have participated in holiday tournaments against teams that they wouldn’t have had an opportunity to play otherwise.
It was a mixed bag of results for local teams but more importantly, they have been able to face some adversity in preparation for the upcoming conference slate as most schools have completed their non-conference schedule and will be fighting for seeding heading into the district tournaments that will be around the corner in about seven weeks.
On the boys’ side of play, right now locally the Hampton Bulldogs have been the most consistent in the early going while the Cloudland Highlanders have been playing steadily in the first half of the season in the Watauga Valley Conference.
The battle for the top will more than likely see University High, Cloudland, and Hampton looking to take the top seed but as always a team could catch fire down the stretch and create havoc for all the others.
Unaka is a team, for example, that could pull off a couple of upsets and be in prime position for the top seed.
In the Three Rivers Conference, when looking at the Elizabethton Cyclones 2-8 record to date of the penning of this article, it would be easy to say that the Cyclones are a bad team but one must take a look at the competition that Coach Lucas Honeycutt’s team has gone against.
The Cyclones have played larger schools such as Knox Bearden, Science Hill, Stone Memorial, York, The Webb School, and Sevier County along with state qualifier University High in their losses.
Adding to Honeycutt’s headaches are injuries to Parker Hughes and Bryson Rollins. Expect the Cyclones to finally settle in once Hughes returns with the brunt of conference play on tap the next seven weeks.
Coach Jeremy Maddux is working hard to get his Warriors competing every game and like all the other conference teams, is looking forward to the upcoming conference season looking for an opportunity to work their way into a solid seeding heading into the district tourney.
On the girls’ side, the Cloudland Lady Highlanders couldn’t be happier to have Coach Matt Birchfield at the helm of the team once again and have responded accordingly being one of two premier teams thus far in the county along with Happy Valley in Three Rivers Conference play.
The Lady Highlanders have been taking care of business in the first half of the season and even the JV has responded well winning the recent JV tournament at Sullivan East.
As with all conferences it’s about finishing as the top one or two seed going into the tournament and the Lady ‘Landers look prime to be one of those top two.
Even though Hampton has struggled early on, the Lady Bulldogs had a good showing at Charleston during the Christmas holiday going 2-1 and cannot be counted out as well as the Lady Rangers of Unaka.
In the Three Rivers Conference, Happy Valley has been playing lights out in the early going already in double digits in wins with a 10-4 record coming off a championship in the Carolina Invitational.
The Elizabethton Lady Cyclones were expected to be one of the top dogs coming into the season and stand at 6-6 currently but everyone knows what this team is capable of after responding last season to win the district title and advance to regions.
Standing in the way of both Happy Valley and Elizabethton however will be Sullivan Central and Sullivan South.
The Elizabethton Cyclones are looking solid in the tournaments they have been participating in and if the course continues to play out, there should be several Cyclones qualify for regional and state berths.
If you have never watched a match, you owe it to yourself to come and watch these athletes battling it out on the mats.
Baseball and Softball
It’s hard to believe but softball and baseball season is not that far off as there are about 60 days left before the first pitch and I for one am looking forward to this season with high anticipation.
The Elizabethton Cyclones will have one of the best teams in Northeast Tennessee as they have a bevy of experience returning from last year’s state run including Duke signee Evan Carter who will be bringing the heat from the mound this season.
When not on the mound, Carter will be patrolling the outfield for the Cyclones.
The most excitement that I see coming is from the softball diamond as Unaka and Cloudland battled it out last season in Region 1 Class A and both teams will be heavily favored this season.
However, Hampton with new head coach Chelsey Weddle may be the surprise of the county so Class A softball is going to be very fun to watch this season.
Also, Coach Ken Hardin will have his Lady Cyclones primed to make another run at a district, regional, and state berth this season in Three Rivers Conference play.
The Lady Cyclones will have one of the premier pitchers in the conference in Madisun Pritchard to go along with some great senior leadership.
Happy Valley should also be ready to compete for another solid season in softball as well.
So, the rest of the 2019-2020 school season looks to have a great opportunity to take in some great play throughout the county.
Make sure you go out and support your school and all its student-athletes.

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