2022 Blue Cross Bowl Class 4-A First Round: Cyclones look to smoke out Hornets in 2021 repeat

Published 8:19 am Tuesday, November 1, 2022

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With the regular season put to bed for the 2022 season, a brand new season gets underway at Citizens Bank Stadium Friday night at 7 pm when the Elizabethton Cyclones play host to the Knox Carter Hornets from Strawberry Plains looking to start off the playoff season 1-0.
Both teams are almost a mirror image of each other as both teams began the regular season losing their first three outings before rallying down the stretch to finish with above .500 records and looking to keep their season going when they meet for the second consecutive year in the first round of the playoffs.
Elizabethton took the 2021 contest by a 47-14 score.
However, the teams look completely different this season and the current players are a year older than they were in 2021, so one can’t go by what happened last year.
Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten knows his team will have to dot their ‘i’s and cross their ‘t’s when it comes to playing a Hornet team that can and will throw everything but the kitchen sink at a team to win a contest.
From kicking onside kicks that could include line-drive bullets at the front line to fake punts, two-point conversions and about any type of play that could be imagined, the Cyclone defense is going to have to stay alert and focused for anything that Hornet head coach Justin Pressley could attempt to pull off to help his team to a win.
“We played them last year in the first round and it’s basically the same group this year with all seniors,” said Witten. “They have a strong quarterback who is a Mr. Football finalist who has rushed and passed for a lot of yards. He is a guy that really makes them go. They like to throw it more than run it and the quarterback is their leading rusher and they have a very high-powered offense.”
One thing that the Cyclones will have to control is their emotions as Carter is known to get chippie and try to get under the skin of their opponents. It will be a challenge to keep emotions in check while keeping their eyes on the grand prize.
“They are a flashy type team that goes for it on fourth downs and are kind of analytical in risk versus reward and gets after you on defense,” said Witten. “They started out the way we did and then picked up momentum the last few weeks and defeated Fulton for the first time since 2001.”
While some teams have only started preparing for the second season and the playoffs, the Cyclones have worked toward playoff mode the entire season getting prepared for the games that really count when it comes down to it.
“We have prepared for these tests and I think now it comes down to our mental preparation,” Witten said. “We use a slogan several times over our playoff runs that you have to win with your brain. We have to be smart and not allow them to get under our skin. We have to recognize formations, we have to recognize special team situations, and for us to win it starts up front where we have to be focused and prepared.”
Witten went on to add that when a team plays smart, they play unselfishly.
“When you play hard, it means you control your effort and when you play together it means laying it on the line for one another,” said Witten. “From here on out, we are playing to be 1-0. For us, the regular season is one thing but for us, the postseason has become a big deal for us. We are fortunate to be at home and need a big 12th man to show up for us. Carter is excited to be here and come here for a second year in a row and are a big play team.”
Friday night’s kickoff will be at 7 pm and Cyclone Nation will be blacking out in support of their Cyclones.

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