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Cyclones, Wolves mix it up in gridiron scrimmage

The back-to-back defending state champion Class 4A Elizabethton Cyclones finally got to hit the field for the first time in 2021 as the Cyclones welcomed the West Ridge Wolves to Citizens Bank Stadium for the first official scrimmage of the year on Thursday night before a pretty impressive crowd for a scrimmage contest.

While the action wasn’t about winning and losing, both teams had to leave the field feeling pretty good about what they saw as both teams managed to orchestrate scoring drives during the scrimmage with the Wolves preparing to enter the Class 6A fray for their first season after combining Sullivan County schools South, Central, and North.

Offensive snapshot
Anyone familiar with Cyclone football knows that Coach Shawn Witten loves to mix up the offensive plays with a combination of run and pass. After graduating three stellar linemen in Cole Morganstern, Wesley Erwin, and Colby Garland, the Cyclones offensive line proved they could provide protection for senior quarterback Bryson Rollins during the scrimmage and open holes for the running back corps.

Rollins displayed the arm strength that everyone knows he has but still must find someone to complement senior Jake Roberts at wide receiver as on several rollouts Rollins was unable to find anyone to throw the football to.

Cade Russell, Nate Stephens, and freshman Jeriah Griffin showed grit in the ground game for Witten during the scrimmage getting in behind the offensive line led by Conner Johnson, Owen Slagle, and Sam Bowers.

The Wolves meanwhile showed a little of what their offense would be comprised of as West Ridge relied on the legs and arm of their quarterback who showed prowess running the new offense.

Defensive snapshot
The Cyclone starting front line showed that it can still hold its own led by Trenton Taylor as the Cyclones managed to stop the run at the line while also putting pressure on the quarterback in the backfield.

Elizabethton’s defensive backs at times allowed Wolve receivers to work in behind them and pick up easy first downs to keep the drives going. Again, this was only the first scrimmage of the season so Witten and his coaching staff will go to work on the film and make corrections between now and next Friday’s scrimmage at home against Morristown West.

Witten’s thoughts
“Today was all about getting some guys in there that hadn’t been in there before. We have a group of core sophomores and a core group of juniors that have been a part of the program but haven’t been out there on a Friday night.

“We limited what some guys did by limiting the plays that we ran offensively and some of the things that West Ridge obviously a new team and a new program just being unfamiliar with some of the things that they did.

“Ultimately our football team is going to face adversity all year and it’s ultimately about how your respond – how you respond to coaching and how you respond to playing.

“You are not always going to come out on fire. Today was good for us. Where we want to get to is on the other side of hard. Our road is going to be hard and when you put a lot of sophomores out there and a lot of guys out there for the first time, you are only going to get better from here.

“We have three weeks starting tomorrow to get ready for Johnson City and I love the way our guys are working – we just need a little more discipline and a little more accountability but we will get there. The first scrimmage – a lot of nerves but we will be better by the time we get to next week.”