The price of success…

Published 10:43 pm Friday, December 11, 2020

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Another successful football season has come to an end for the Elizabethton Cyclones as they have earned their second straight BlueCross Bowl Class 4A State Championship with a win over Haywood High School.

The school is excited, the community is excited – it’s a great time to be a Cyclone except if you are the athletic director Forrest Holt or head coach Shawn Witten trying to finalize games for the 2021 campaign.

Most of this problem does not originate with the Cyclones state titles but is just another discombobulation of the TSSAA and its aligning of regions into small groups of teams that force teams to often have to find anywhere from one to seven extra games outside of the conference to be able to build a 10-game season.

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Now, with the success of the Cyclone program and the new re-alignment recently announced, the Cyclones have
Grainger, Greeneville, Seymour, Sullivan East, and Volunteer as conference foes and are having to work to secure five more games to have a 10-game schedule.

With their hard work, Holt and Witten have been able to secure nine games but have been calling everyone in the phone book to fill the 10th game.

They have called upon David Crockett who has been the defending Region 1 5-A winner for the last couple of years and have been turned down even after making an offer of compensation to play.

The game would be a huge gate maker for both teams with the success and following both have but unfortunately, the answer currently is no.

A call has been placed to Tennessee High, Dobyns-Bennett, and the new West Ridge High School (formerly South, Central, and North) with the same response from each of these schools which once again doesn’t make much sense as these would be big rivalry makers and large gate turners but still a no.

The duo has reached out to schools in Morristown as well as Virginia schools Gate City, Richlands, and Graham, and these schools are already filled or have opted not to play the Cyclones.

It is interesting to note that the only suitors that have reached out to the Cyclones are both state champions themselves in Murfreesboro Oakland and Alcoa and most high school fans know what you face when playing these schools with high-caliber players coming out of the blue to fill those rosters.

And remember that Oakland just dismantled state-power Maryville in the championship handing the Rebels their worst loss ever at the state level.

Witten will be the first to tell you it’s not about winning and losing as players cycle in and out of programs over time and while the Cyclones are at the top now, there will be a time when the talent level cycles and someone else will rise to the top much like the Cyclones did when there was a slight talent level drop at Greeneville.

From a financial standpoint, it makes no sense why a school that has been a rivalry in the past wouldn’t want to renew that rivalry to drive fans back through the gates.

There isn’t a team anywhere whose coffers haven’t been devastated by the recent pandemic which forced reduced attendance in 2020 severely impacting what the sports teams within each school will be able to do in the upcoming 2021 season.

And just to be fair, it’s not only the Cyclones locally that have had to scramble to find opponents as Cloudland and Unaka are fortunate to have two more additions to their Region 1-A in North Greene and Cosby meaning that they had to fill five game spots instead of seven.

However, now Hampton and Happy Valley are in the same boat as Cloudland and Unaka in the past as their region has dropped to a four-team region with Cumberland Gap and South Greene.

That meant the Bulldogs and Warriors will be looking to fill seven games to have a 10-game regular season.

So the bottom line is it’s a mess. Throw into the equation that this pandemic could extend well beyond the borders of 2020 and it could even be a larger mess next football season especially if football season is impacted in Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky where some of the Tennessee teams have reached out to games for.

Time will tell as far as the 2021 season goes, but right now the hunt is on, and hopefully, the opportunity to play a good quality team will win over playing a sub-par team just to get a victory as someone will answer the Cyclone calls with a yes.