Cyclones face high hurdle at Greeneville

By Allen LaMountain
ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   A three-game losing skid to the Greeneville Greene Devils -- not to mention some votes in the state prep poll -- is at stake tonight when the Elizabethton Cyclones visit Burley Stadium for a non-region contest against the Greene Devils.
   "I feel like this gives us a chance to play one of the top five teams in 4-A football," said EHS head coach Tommy Jenkins. "We have an opportunity to measure ourselves against a real good football team, and if we can eliminate the mistakes that killed us in previous games against them we'll give ourselves a chance to win."
   'Betsy has dropped contests to the Devils in a variety of ways, falling in 2000 by a 33-18 tally in Greeneville. The Devils reinforced that win with a convincing 25-0 victory over EHS in the second round of the TSSAA playoffs at Brown-Childress Stadium.
   Last season a second-half collapse by 'Betsy saw the Greene Devils erase a halftime score of 21-21 enroute to a 40-27 decimation as EHS errors allowed Greeneville a great deal of momentum.
   "We didn't come out to play in the second half last year," said Cyclone senior QB Ryan Curtis. "We came out with no momentum even though we played them tough in the first half. I don't know how that happens but we can't let that happen to ourselves this week. Cody Baugh is a good quarterback, and we have to respect him, but we need to get a running game going on offense to have a chance."
   That means that the onus is on senior RB Walter Brown to step up, which he has done spectacularly this season. Brown has rushed for better than 600 yards over the course of four ball games this season and looks to add to that total tonight.
   Brown's totals read like a guy taking his game to the next level, as he has been the most consistent performer 'Betsy has had all season with 80 carries for 690 yards (8.6 yards-per-carry) and 10 rushing touchdowns.
   "We aren't going to do anything different than we have all season," said Brown. "If the offensive line keeps playing well we should be able to keep doing well. The thing is to keep mixing it up on offense by throwing the ball well."
   Curtis has put up some good numbers himself this season, throwing for 385 yards on 36-of-67 passing (53.7 percent) with four touchdowns, and must be on-target this week against what will be an aggressive Greene Devil defense.
   "Along with having an explosive offense, Greeneville is very aggressive defensively," said Jenkins. "I haven't seen any gaping holes in their defense, so we'll just try to do what has been successful for us so far."
   Defensively the Cyclones will have to contend with a well-balanced team that according to head coach Mike Zeller has been: "Getting good leadership from a solid core of seniors."
   Receivers like Joe Watson, Charlie Wilcox and Chase Greenway give Baugh some solid targets, which will attempt to put pressure on the 'Betsy secondary all night.
   "It's a big game for both teams," said Zeller. "Mostly in terms of keeping momentum and keeping things rolling. These guys have been able to maintain their focus from week-to-week very well, and that's a credit to our seniors."
   Fullback Thomas Lister is another weapon the Greene Devils hope to exploit in the EHS defense, and it will be up to the defensive front line and the linebackers to slow down the Devils ground attack.
   "Lister has been playing well this season," said Zeller. "He runs hard and has been catching the ball well for us."
   While this is a non-region matchup this game has a lot of meaning for fans as the two sides don't seem to like each other much, and in fact love to revel in rubbing it in to the other side.
   Zeller however, doesn't buy into the theory that this game means anything more than any other game, saying: "We may look back on this game come playoffs, but that's the furthest thing from our minds right now. I don't know that the players buy into that this is a rabid rivalry. In fact we haven't even talked much about that aspect this week in preparations."
   What do the Cyclone players think?
   Curtis said the game is: "Like the Tennessee High game in that it's a tough week of preparation. It almost feels like a conference game."
   Brown likened the contest to the rivalry with Science Hill, saying, "It's a lot like the Science Hill rivalry. It's important because they are a ranked team in the state and if we want that kind of recognition we have to play well. It's definitely a game we want to win."
   Game time is 7:30 at Burley Stadium in Greeneville.