Primed and ready… TAD Jr. Cyclones looking to come out of the gate strong

Published 2:24 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com 
Probably one of the best middle school football games in a long memory span was played last season between the T.A. Dugger Jr. Cyclones and the Greeneville Middle Greene Devils.

It was a slobber knocker from start to finish with the game coming down to the final play of the contest to determine the winner as the Greene Devils slipped out of the clutches of the Jr. Cyclones.

There has been some turnover from last year’s team and as always, teams take on different personas as they enter a new campaign.

For head coach Brock Pittman, the same is true for his 2021 edition of the Jr. Cyclone football program.

“Every team is different, but this team is a lot different than last year’s team in a lot of ways – in a lot of good ways,” Pittman said after the school held it’s fall sports media day. “Offensively, we were run dominant last year but we had those really deep threats and up-the-field speed with Jeremiah (Norris) and Jeriah (Griffin).

“This year we have a different identity. We feel pretty confident upfront on our offensive line. We have great size, great kids and they work hard.

“We feel pretty good about our situation in the backfield defensively. We are going to be a run-stopping defense first and give up short throws and make tackles and try not to give up big plays. That’s pretty much our identity on that side of the football.”

Pittman said that the one area that the team is putting a lot of focus on is the special teams for 2021. He added that was somewhere that the team needed to improve on and the Jr. Cyclones have put a lot of emphasis on kickoff coverage and punt coverage.

From his days as a player, Pittman said it was no secret where his heart lies and that is down in the trenches on the offensive line.

“I’m an offensive line guy and we have a good offensive line,” added Pittman. “When you add in that skill behind them, we have a chance to be really good offensively on the ground and in the air with play-action and things like that.

“But I think that offensively it all goes back to your offensive line and those kids.”

If there is a key to this year’s Jr. Cyclone team, it all boils down to the team concept that Pittman and his coaching staff is trying to impart to the young players that will be donning the orange and black.

“Playing as a team and teaching that team concept – we tell our defense all the time it takes 11 players for one player to make a tackle. You don’t have to make the tackle every time,” Pittman stated.

“You do your job and it allows someone else to make the tackle – just play as a team and understand that concept. The same thing offensively – you need 11 guys doing what they are supposed to do.”

Pittman has been around football for a minute and he shared that he felt that the pre-season that his team has just come through has been the best that he has had.

“Mentally, this has been one of the preseason’s that I have ever been a part of this year. Our coaches have done a great job of coaching and getting them ready. We feel very confident that we are going to be ready to play,” Pittman commented.

The Jr. Cyclones have no lack of players on their squad as there currently are 70-plus players dressing out daily for practice. While many may frown on the size and feel that their respective player will not be given any attention, Pittman proudly admitted that is the part of the program that he embellishes so much in the fact that all kids get the identical same coaching to have them prepared when game time comes.

“It’s the fact that those kids know they are going to be coached,” Pittman said. “Every one of our kids is working on something during practice. It’s organized and we have the coaching staff to do that.

“So nobody is standing around and that’s the biggest thing is that we are coaching them all. When we have to sub in with JV kids they know exactly what they are doing and exactly where they are going, they know what their role is and they know they are going to be coached.

“And obviously, we have 70-plus kids on the team and that’s awesome for a middle school program but at the same time the pressure is on us as coaches to make sure that we are organized and they are working and I feel like we are doing that – we have got that down,” Pittman continued. “We have had a really good pre-season and I can’t say enough about the assistant coaches.”

The Jr. Cyclones push themselves to be the best and prepared to move up to the high school ranks. And just like their high school counterparts, this team makes no bones about why they take the field each and every game.

“Losing is not fun and we are doing this to win – make no mistake about it but the kids are having fun and that is the most important thing.”