Storm warnings issued… Cyclones, Hurricanes set for a collision course in Class 4A second round

Published 5:40 pm Monday, November 9, 2020

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Storm warnings were sent out immediately after the Elizabethton Cyclones defeated the East Ridge Pioneers on Friday night at Citizens Bank Stadium in the first round of the TSSAA Class 4A playoffs after word went out that the East Hamilton Hurricanes had blown away the Sullivan South Rebels in convincing fashion in Chattanooga.

Now, the two teams look to blow up one dandy of a storm in the second round Friday night at Citizen Bank Stadium with the winner living to play another week and the loser packing up the gear.

It will be the first meeting between the two teams on the gridiron and that creates a lot of excitement for Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten as he and his coaching staff prepare for the showdown.

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“I still don’t think that we have played our best football yet,” Witten said. “We have never played East Hamilton before so it’s going to be fun preparing for a new team.

“We know how good Sullivan South is and anytime you can score 50 points in football is impressive against them. We know we have our work cut out for us this week.”

The Cyclones managed to put away the Pioneers with ease despite being down a couple of players on defense and Witten limiting his star quarterback, Bryson Rollins, to minimum work as far as the running game went.

Rollins however was like a Ginzu knife as he sliced the Pioneers apart slicker than a vine-riped tomato allowing the Cyclones to play a lot of their backup players in the second half after building a 49-7 lead by halftime.

Also, a change in schemes played dividends as Parker Hughes moved into the backfield and ripped off some big runs for 68 yards, and recorded a touchdown on a rushing attempt to go along with three touchdowns through the air as the senior accounted for 210 all-purpose yards and four scores.

But the head coach also knows that with each passing week, Rollins will need to get back to work on the ground as well as the air for the Cyclones to provide headaches for the opposing defensive coordinators.

“Each round is going to get extremely tough,” added Witten. “We are fortunate to be here.

“I think a lot of the difference is, especially in Class 4A, is the travel. When you have to come from Chattanooga, that’s a long way to come and play. But we are excited to be at home.

“The fire has got to burn inside of us,” Witten continued. “It’s a different feeling taking the field in a playoff atmosphere. We have got to get ourselves prepared and ready to go.”

The 14th year head coach knows that his team hasn’t really peaked at its full potential but even being down the players they were without Friday night including stud linebacker Deuce Morton, the Cyclones still had plenty in the tank for East Ridge.

“We are blessed. We have great players and a great program. We have to got to raise the level of our play. We know each round is going to get tougher and tougher,” said Witten.

“The key to success is preparation and for us is to get off the field on third down. We have to run the ball a little bit and not score as quickly and run the clock some.”

When looking at the Hurricanes, Witten said that the team has improved from last season and the game against South showed that statement to be accurate.

“They are a very good team that has improved and is well-coached,” Witten commented. “A new coach took over a year ago and they are very fast. “It’s almost like playing basketball on turf – they are very fast and very finesse. They have a good mix with their players. It’s going to be a great challenge.”

The contest is just the next step on the rung of the ladder that the Cyclones are climbing as each week they move toward a potential second-consecutive state title.

“It’s one step closer to where we want to be,” Witten concluded.