Cyclones looking to make another strong run in 2024

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Putting the pieces together…


It almost seems strange to be talking high school football the first week of June, but the reality is that football is almost a full year of preparation from about two weeks after the season ends until preparations start for the next season.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Elizabethton Cyclones were one of many teams to take advantage of the spring practice session afforded by the TSSAA to get in some added work in evaluating what needs to be tweaked when real practice begins in the summer.

“Spring practice was really good,” said Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten. “We got in some really good drills and got some guys stronger.

“Obviously we have a new group and a new identity. We graduated a large senior class last year so we have to see where we have to fill in those spots and where the depth is going to come from. We need to get the guys mentally ready as quick as we can and put them through the fire making some adjustments in positions.”

One thing that will be obvious to fans this season is that the Cyclones will look quite a bit the same on both sides of the football as the depth has changed due to a new cycle of players that are entering the program which ultimately forces coaches to utilize players both ways.

“A lot more of it for us will be getting a lot of guys to play both offense and defense,” said Witten. “We have been so good in the past of limiting roles that guys play, but now with a new cycle of O-lineman and D-lineman, running back and linebackers, wide receivers and defensive backs, guys are going to have to be versatile to play both sides of the football instead of just one side.”

Although 19 seniors graduated last year, there is a good cupboard of players returning to the team that should provide the leadership needed to compete for another Region 1 title.

Rhett Slagle returns under center after a solid sophomore campaign.

“Rhett with familiarity at quarterback will play to his strengths,” said Witten. “He has gotten bigger, stronger, and powerful and has a rocket arm.”

Elizabethton will be getting back a horse of a running back in Jaiden Wallin, better known as J-Train, who suffered a season-ending injury on the road at Morristown West last season.

As big as a train, any defense will get a headache from trying to tackle the brute running back as the rising junior looks to take out the frustrations of being sidelined for 2023 out on opposing teams.

Also back will be speedy Jeriah Griffin who can play multiple positions from running back, wide receiver, quarterback, and defensive back. Brothers Justius and Zach Wallin will also provide a mighty punch on both sides of the football.

Landon Hughes, Brayden Rainwater, and Seth Campbell will bring some big bodies to the line on both sides of the football while Bryson Rowland at corner and Zach Rollins will also bring experience.

“With J-Bird and Justius back there, the identity is not going to be real tricky,” Witten said. “We just want to form that identity and characteristics you want your team to be about. Keeping it simple and letting guys play while building some leaders is what it’s really all about.”

As for the season, Witten said that nothing much changes in regards to the opposition as the season boils down to a tale of two differing schedules as far as the competition goes.

“You have those games and then the other games,” said Witten. “Greeneville and Dobyns-Bennett and then teams like Sullivan East and Volunteer. We don’t have to be road warriors like last year. We got off to a hot start last season starting 7-0 but didn’t finish the job. This year, the focus is to finish and compete.”

Fans will be excited this year in the fact they don’t have to travel almost every week after seeing only three regular-season games at Citizens Bank Stadium as the 2024 schedule has the team at home for six games and on the road for four.

The home games include Science Hill, Morristown West, Grainger, Cherokee, Sullivan East, and Dobyns-Bennett while road games will take the Cyclones to Daniel Boone, Northview Academy, Volunteer, and Greeneville.

Everyone knows what the last game of the season usually means as both Elizabethton and Greeneville have battled it out for supremacy in Region 1 for the last few years.