Cyclones looking to corral Mavericks Friday night

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
The Elizabethton Cyclones finally got a game last week that allowed them to not put a lot of pressure on themselves as they easily handled the Grainger Grizzlies on the road in Rutledge by a 56-0 score.

However, this week the Cyclones jump right back into the heat of battle as they play host to a very good Anderson County team whose record may not indicate the type of team the Mavericks will be bringing to Citizens Bank Stadium on Friday for a 7:30 pm kickoff.

With losses to Knox Powell, Science Hill, and Rhea County, the Mavericks will be looking to keep their winning ways against the Cyclones when they come to Elizabethton as Coach Shawn Witten and the Cyclones have struggled in games on the road losing in back-to-back playoff appearances to the Mavericks before winning two straight state championships.

“This is a big confidence booster game for us,” said Witten. “We are at the halfway point of the season and I think this game can kind of set us up for the second half of the season and put us in a great position to have a strong finish.”

The TSSAA and its reclassification have played a significant role in forcing the two teams to even consider playing during the regular season as scheduling games has become tougher and tougher for the two schools.

“I think over the last four years, what transpires a lot like us, we are playing each other because both teams have had a lot of success and both teams have had trouble scheduling and I think they are a team that you may get to face in the playoffs later on,” Witten added.

“They are a really good team. They are a really good team and are 2-3 and have played Knox Powell, Science Hill, Rhea County which is a common opponent for us later in the year,  Fulton and South Doyle – they have two conference wins and three non-conference losses. They have played really good teams and they are a scoring team that likes to score a lot of points early.”

Witten went on to add in the games that the Mavericks have lost, Anderson County actually had the lead in the games and found a way to let their opponent come back for the win. One thing that impressed the Cyclone coach in his 15th year at the helm of the Cyclones was the Mavericks energy level that they play with as the team is capable of either running or throwing the football.

“It doesn’t get any easier – we have to respond and get better,” commented Witten. “We need to keep fighting and get better. At this time of the season, we have got to start playing really good football and putting it all together.

“You have got four games and three scrimmages and a lot of practice time, so now is the time that we need to start playing good football in all three phases or our season is not going to end the way it needs to be.”

For that to happen, the head coach said that as coaches the Cyclones need to put a product on the field that has the mentality of ‘whatever it takes’ meaning that the best offensive and defensive players have to be on the field for all three phases of the game.

Some opponents allow a slight change but when it comes to games like Anderson County, that mentality has to be at the forefront.

One thing that Witten does like seeing is the tone with which the defense has been playing as of late. Part of that reason might have been the fact the defensive unit got one of it’s leaders back in Blake Stewart last week who has been sidelined with an injury.

“We have gotten a little bit more aggressive on defense,” said Witten. “Last week the best part was we had Blake Stewart return which was big and Eli Williams has been playing well. His experience and the toughness with Blake out there make us better.

“We just have to find that consistency and find the motivation within ourselves to put up that fight. We have preached that this week and hopefully that message pays off.”