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Recharging of the batteries… Cyclones take advantage of a bye week in preparation for Boone

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com      
For those who are content to be content where they are will never achieve a higher greatness.
With that thought in mind, the Elizabethton Cyclones continued to work this week to improve on the little things that were magnified during their first two games of the season against Science Hill and Sullivan East during their bye week.
The end results are hopefully that some oil has been applied to the gears that have been a little squeaky and on Friday night in Gray that those will dissipate and turn into a well-running machine as the Cyclones take on a Jeremy Jenkins team that defeated Greeneville by one point before falling to CAK and Tennessee High.
Head coach Shawn Witten and his staff are excellent in taking game film and dissecting each phase of the game much like a biology student dissecting and learning the inner workings of a guinea pig.
Elizabethton cannot take the Blazers for granted as head coach Jeremy Jenkins team would love nothing better than to throw a monkey wrench into the works and end the Cyclones 17 game winning streak dating back to 2019.
The game will mark the first time in 2020 that the Cyclones will be on the road and experience what other teams that have traveled to Citizens Bank Stadium have felt having a low fan turnout without the ‘Betsy Band that always comes into play as the 12th man.
It will be a benchmark as the Cyclones will be road warriors for the next three weeks having to visit Gray, Grainger County, and Cherokee.
“Any time you come off an open week, you want to be fresh and ready to go,” said Witten. “We counted it up the other day, we have been going 54 days of practice and two games since we started up and we have a long time to go.
“We want to stay fresh and healed up because we want to play fast and physical and have our batteries recharged. We have had the opportunities to work on a lot of improvements and get some young guys some opportunities and tighten up some things that we want to do.”
Witten was asked specifically about what the focus of the bye week was for his Cyclone team.
“Really work on some point of emphasis. We talked about going on the road for the first time in a long time dating back to last year,” stated Witten.
“The whole month of September we are going to be on the road so we are going to have a really tough stretch so its good to have our batteries recharged.”
Witten knows going into this week’s contest that he doesn’t know which Boone team he will see in Gray Friday night especially with the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season they have had to this point of the season.
The Blazers have faced some strong competition from the likes of CAK, Greeneville, and Tennesse High and now contend with the number one team in the state in Class 4A in the Cyclones.
“It was probably disappointing for them last Friday night at Tennessee High only scoring seven points,” Witten said of the Blazers last contest. “They scored 35 against Greeneville and really wore them out. They beat them physically, was down 14 points twice, and came back to win by blocking an extra point.
“They ended up taking the lead but lost one of their better players in Devin White.”
Losing White may have been the fuel that stoked the Blazers on to the win at Greeneville, but his misfortune is just one of an ongoing cycle that Jenkins and his team have had to face.
“That team has really faced a lot of adversity over the last couple of years. Brendan Blair has got a lot of experience. He took over for Charlie Cole last year after week two and played the entire season,” Witten commented.
“This year, they lose White who is a running back and linebacker so he takes over. Blair has had about 80 carries in three games and that’s a lot you know.
“They had a really tough schedule in CAK, Greeneville, and Tennessee High and now us so we have to play physical and be sharp early on and try to eliminate the mistakes, turnovers, mental errors and really get off to a great start.”
Witten said in preparing for a Jenkins-led squad, it’s about like going to your favorite buffet and getting the same thing every time without worrying about the menu changing.
“It’s a typical Jeremy Jenkins team,” he said. “They have 21 seniors. Their center and guards are really big and have a quarterback who has settled into his play.
“He was 12-of-14 against Greeneville and does a great job of running their offense. Its really a ball-control offense, what you see is what you are going to get. There is not a whole lot of complexity to it.”
From the game one film to now, Witten said it is evident that the Blazers are a team that has been through the grind.
“When you turn on the film you see two different teams – they are tired and worn out and made a lot of mistakes against Bristol but against Greeneville, they hung in there to the end.”
Witten was asked how he would grade out his squad after the first two games of the season.
“I liked the energy a lot better in the second game than I did the first,” said the skipper in his 14th year at his alma mater. “I thought that we played with a lot more heart and energy. We were a lot more into it and got off to a great start.
“There are a lot of things you can grade off of – turnovers, penalties which we have been really good there and been disciplined. We are a lot better when we spread the football around.
“Our defense has really come on and played really well. They will be battle-tested Friday night. Offensively we have to take charge and put drives together and score quickly but really learn to kill the clock and be able to put the game away.”
Fans are reminded that with limited tickets that the games are streamed on NFHS channels for a subscription of $69.99 that gets all the football games as well as soccer, volleyball, and wrestling in the fall.
Portions of that subscription actually are returned to the school to benefit the athletic department.
Kickoff time is set for 7:30 pm.