Cyclones release schedule, Coach Shawn Witten shares his thoughts

Published 2:54 pm Friday, June 30, 2023

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 By Ron Marvel
Star Correspondent
The Elizabethton Cyclones released their schedules for the 2023 season and in initial glance, it’s clear the Cyclones will have their work cut out for them with the combination of both Science Hill and Dobyns -Bennett, not to mention Daniel Boone and an end of the season game that will likely determine who hosts throughout the TSSAA Playoffs, the Cyclones will have to build unity and chemistry quickly to prepare themselves mentally and physically for that closing game.
Schedule Analysis (Combined Record of Teams 67-53)-In addition to the difficult schedule, the Cyclones will travel in six out of their first seven games. For Coach Witten, this year’s formula is the same as any year, first look at your conference and then access from there. “We have picked up North View this year as they have moved up from 3A; in addition, we get Cherokee which we knew was just a matter of time; we also get Grainger early and Sullivan East, Volunteer and then close the season with Greeneville. We have typically got them closer to Labor Day but will get them in week 11 this season,” Witten shared. The Cyclones will have a couple of advantages this year in this heated rival game with Greeneville; first, it’s at home and second, it comes right after a week 10 bye. That extra week of rest and preparation could make a huge difference.“ You always want to be open later to build momentum to get healthy and get ready for the playoffs, just a chance to catch our breath,” Witten said.
The Cyclones Non-Conference schedule may very well be one of the most difficult any 4A team will face. Witten quickly acknowledges the tough schedule but also talks about getting away from a 9-game schedule. Two 6A schools in Science Hill and DB, then a 12-1 5A Daniel Boone team, not to mention a 7-5 tough 5A Morristown West squad. “The last time we played Kingsport was 2008; obviously, we are on the road for that contest, start off with Science Hill and Daniel Boone right there in the middle; the thing for us is the schedule is kind of spread out and Greeneville there to end the season when you get back to back games against big schools you worry about recovery and injury,” Witten said.
The average high school football fan may not know it but putting together a schedule for football can be an arduous task.“ You got to get home and away games placed in there for example if we decide were not going to play Kingsport or Morristown then who are we going to play, football scheduling may be one of the most difficult things in the State, sometimes you just don’t have a lot of options”. When asked how his team would take on the challenge of being road warriors Coach Witten replied, “right off the bat playing on the road against Science Hill is big, but team unity and chemistry is huge, mental toughness is football but we have 21 rising seniors we are going to have to depend on them senior leadership, poise, senior confidence we have to understand they have been there and done that.” The Cyclones have in part become victim to their own success a challenge Witten acknowledge and embraces, “at this point for us there are a half dozen teams we can get in our schedule, I can hear my granddad now in my head saying, playing Science Hill and Kingsport in the same year that doesn’t happen for a 4A school, playing both and tossing in Greeneville and Daniel Boone that is the upper echelon of teams in East Tennessee.” One positive with this schedule is the fact that it is much easier from a travel point of view; trips for example, to Anderson County or Rhea County that take three plus hours can be tough on a team. It is important to know the last thing the Cyclones and Coach Witten wanted was to be locked in for the next two years with a nine-game schedule.
This is a tough gauntlet to run but this is not Coach Wittens first time riding this merry-go-round, he knows what his team has to do to flourish in the 2023 season. “Our kids have to understand if you don’t work as hard as we work, you won’t give yourself a chance; we have to work year-round to learn how to play, learn how to practice and win. Our coaches have to do their jobs, it’s why the offseason is so important !” Witten exclaimed. “ You know we strive to put our kids on the highest platform each and every Friday night it’s a big deal,” Witten closed. The Cyclones will play in a six team Jamboree at ETSU on August 10, where they will see Science Hill, DB and Daniel Boone as well as West Ridge and David Crockett.

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