It’s Greeneville week baby… Big Region 1 4-A showdown coming a full month early for both Elizabethton, Greeneville
Published 1:34 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2021
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
Much like the former third Saturday in October showdown between Tennessee and Alabama, the Elizabethton and Greeneville prep football showdowns were always looked forward to around the middle of October.
The winner pretty much sewed up the conference title on the outcome of that contest.
However, this season with the realignment put in place by the TSSAA, that game will now roll around in week three as both teams prepare to crack noggins on Friday night under the lights at Citizens Bank Stadium at 7:30 pm in one of the biggest games in the state in Class 4A and possibly any division.
A win puts the victor in the driver’s seat while a loss doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world as there are still seven games left for both Greeneville and Elizabethton after Friday night’s contest.
“It’s going to be an extremely tough matchup,” said Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten. “Greeneville is a very good football team that returns a lot of great weapons. Both programs know each other and are very similar. We have played four times in the last two years and they have been extremely tough games.
“This game has always been the third week of October and now it’s the third week of the season. There is a lot at stake in the first week of September. This game always brings out the best in both programs win or lose.
“You get a lot better by just playing in this game. It brings out the best in both the crowds and the community. It’s just exciting to be a part of.”
Just like other Greeneville teams, the game will come down to containing big plays that the Greene Devils have up their sleeves as Mason Gudger returns to the backfield for Greeneville and that in itself is a major task for any team to defend.
“Gudger has track speed and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball,” Witten added. “They also have outside guys that have the ability to make a lot of plays because they are athletic and fast.
“The thing that makes them go is (quarterback Brady) Quillen. Quillen was inserted into the lineup halfway through the season a year ago so he has gotten some games under his belt and does a great job of managing the offense,” Witten continued. “He will make some plays with his feet and make some throws and has a great supporting staff around him.
“There is no question that the last time they played here, Gudger had some plays that took the top right off the defense so he is extremely tough and we definitely have our work cut out for us going into this game and it’s going to be a fight all night Friday night.”
While Greeneville pummeled Region foe, Grainger, last week by a 78-6 score, the Cyclones were given another week off as Rhea County requested to move the game to October due to a high rate of COVID in Evensville.
The week was probably a blessing in disguise for the Cyclones as the Science Hill game was about as a physical game that the Cyclones needed to open the season in the inaugural Railroad Rumble.
With plenty to work on from that game including getting penalties in check, the Cyclones haven’t wasted a moment in preparing for Friday’s clash in what is anticipated to be a highly attended game.
“A lot of people don’t realize that win or lose playing Science Hill you just physically. mentally, and emotionally prepare for them all summer is taxing along with the heat and the depth and the number of plays our guys have to play that early, and our guys fought our tails off.
“It wasn’t perfect by any means – we made a lot of mistakes, had a lot of penalties, but we played really, really hard.
“In the situations that we thrive in, we executed when we had to,” said Witten. “We have worked hard in the last couple of days and the last couple of weeks of just really getting our execution to match our play. If we can be crisper and smoother and a little bit more sound in some areas, I think that we will be tough to stop.”
Witten along with everyone that supports the orange and black knows that with teams being realigned the way they have, the best scenario to unfold will be to gain a victory so come playoff time it will be a home-field advantage for the top team in the region.
And just like in the opening game of the season, this group of Cyclones knows what it is like to stand on the big stage with a lot of implications far beyond this game at hand.
“Our conference really comes down to two teams and it’s really crazy in high school football that it has come down to one game, but we have had to keep guys out of JV games, we have had to keep guys to just to build our depth in practice time,” stated Witten. “We caught maybe a break in getting the Rhea County game moved to get extra rest time and extra preparation time.
“We made a lot of mistakes two weeks ago against Johnson City but we feel like that extra preparation is really going to help us. We feel like we had some areas that we needed to improve in and we have just to got make sure that we are ready to go.
“It’s like we said, there is a lot of season left to play and a lot of big games left to play so the way our conference has been set up the last four years and the next two years, the winner gets home-field advantage for the playoffs and that sets the stage.”
Witten has encouraged all Cyclone fans to wear orange to welcome the Greene Devils.
Once again, kickoff has been confirmed to be at 7:30 pm by EHS Athletic Director Forrest Holt.