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At the midway point and still chugging…

      If someone had told me five weeks ago that we would be standing at the midway point of the 2020 prep football campaign in week five I might have easily told them they were crazy if they thought we would make it this far without being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
     And while some have had to cancel games due to outbreaks, for the most part, every team that has chosen to start on the regular start date is still playing.
     Locally, the Elizabethton Cyclones enter the fifth week looking for win number four after having to really dig down and play hard on the road at Daniel Boone last week winning in a  squeaker 23-21 on a blocked field goal by Parker Hughes.
    The Cyclones remain atop the Class 4A state rankings this week and will be facing a long road trip to tomato country when they visit Grainger Co. for a region contest.
    Coach Shawn Witten is breathing a sigh of relief this week as he gets his three starting linemen back after a safety protocol sit out last Friday night and hopes that the Cyclone offense can get back on track with its high-powered offense featuring quarterback Bryson Rollins, running backs Nate Stephens, LaDarian Avery, and Cade Russell, along with wide receivers Hughes and Braden Holly.
    Look for the Cyclones to open up both barrels against the Grizzlies in re-establishing their offensive dominance.
    Hampton has the week off this week after opening the season one game late due to being held back by the Carter County School Board’s decision to shut down athletics before the first contest of the season.
    Coach Michael Lunsford has his team sitting in a good situation as the Bulldogs are 3-0 heading into their bye week and are starting to get notices statewide in consideration of breaking the Top 10 in Class 2-A.
    Quarterback Conor Jones continues to punish the opposition with both his arm and legs in helping his team off to a great start. The defensive corps of the Bulldogs also have been strong in shutting the opposition down while putting the football in the hands of their offense.
    Hampton is looking good and more than likely the Region 1-2A championship will come down to Hampton’s showdown with South Greene.
    Happy Valley head coach Jason Jarrett was hard on himself after last week’s contest against Unicoi County and is desperately hoping that the Warriors get their defensive straightened out and somehow light a fire under their offense which has been finding a tough time scoring.
    This week, the Warriors host a group of Eagles from Cosby who also is hungry for a win but don’t expect the Warriors not to come with their boiling cauldrons of hot water looking to do some feather plucking to get back in the win column.
    They have offensive weapons, especially in running back Matthew Bahn and quarterback Eli Ayers, but must now find out ways to get those two loosened up and feeling it early in Friday’s contest.
    Up the Creek, head coach O’Brien Bennett could approach this week’s game against Jellico in a couple of ways. First, he could have the mulligrubs after his team’s big loss last week against Claiborne County or two he could feel pretty good about his team’s chances to put itself in good shape in the region with a win over visiting Jellico.
    Knowing Bennett, he would choose the latter as he knows he has something special beginning to blossom at Unaka and a big win over Jellico would set the Rangers up in a prime position to possibly earn a home playoff game which is huge in the first week of the playoffs.
    So far, the duo of Landon Ramsey and Daniel Shearl have been carrying the Rangers offensively with a talented group of linemen in front of them and the two will both need big games Friday night to change the course of their past meetings with Jellico.
    Coach Scott Potter and his Highlanders have been running a tough gauntlet against larger programs in the early contest dropping games to Happy Valley and Hampton but the ‘Lander head coach knows that within their region that Cloudland has a fighting chance in every contest they play.
    On Friday in Roan Mountain, Potter and his team will be looking to take a few feathers out of the war bonnet of the Hancock County Indians in a region showdown.
    Seth Birchfield and Caleb Sluder will be looking for big numbers when they get behind their big offensive line lead by Eli Presswood and hope to start things rolling in the right direction over the next upcoming weeks.
    Certainly, 2020 has been an unusual and crazy football season in the fact that stands that normally overflow are now holding only families of the players, cheerleaders, and the band when they play at home games.
    It was very odd last week at Boone when the ‘Betsy pep band wasn’t present to help urge their Cyclones on to a win.
    But thankfully when this year is over we can look back and be thankful that there was somewhat of a resemblance to a prep football campaign.    While five more weeks remain and no one knows what is around the next bend in the road, we will continue to be thankful and blessed that our kids and coaches are able to participate in another football season.