Vikings present first hurdle to Cyclone title hopes

By Ivan Sanders
With thoughts of last week's closing-seconds loss to neighboring Science Hill only a tainted memory, the Elizabethton Cyclones now are a game older and refocused on the task at hand in tonight's crucial conference tilt with arch nemesis Tennessee High.
The stakes are high, as the team that has won this early-season battle has gone on to claim the conference title in nine of the last 10 years. Maroon has been the color of the victor for the last two seasons, but the Orange & Black are hungry to capsize the Vikings' boat and return the title back to Cyclone territory.
"Tennessee High is always a tough game because they always seem to have a really good defense over the years," Cyclone mentor Tommy Jenkins said on Thursday.
"In watching the films of their game against Cherokee, it looks like they are going to have a solid offensive unit as well because they racked up nearly 300 yards of offense while holding a tough Cherokee team to only six points."
It is no secret that for the Cyclones to win against the Vikings, the offensive unit will have to do a much better job of moving the football.
Gaining only 120 yards of offense last week against Science Hill, with 65 yards of the total coming on the lone touchdown toss to Adam Turley, Jenkins feels that the offensive unit needs to have a good initial series to gain the confidence needed to move the ball each time it touches the pigskin.
"We are definitely going to have to generate some offense, which we didn't do very well at last week," explained Jenkins. "When we break the offensive huddle, we need to come to the line believing that we are going to move the football each and every down."
According to offensive line coach Richard VanHuss, his unit has worked hard all week to make sure the basics of offensive line play are executed, meaning that the line's job is not just to hit the person in front of them, but to drive them in the other direction.
Said VanHuss: "Jake Jenkins, Cody Fair and Daniel Wagner have been here and know what they need to do to help bring Trevor (Hyder) and David (Anderson) up to speed where they are comfortable after getting their first opportunity at starting on the line. I think the guys really feel better after getting the Science Hill game under their belts."
Defensively, the Cyclones proved that when the rubber meets the highway, they have what it takes to penetrate its opponent's offensive unit and make the big plays.
Said defensive tackle Cody Bunton: "I feel like the reason we were successful last week was because we came out and had a high level of intensity and executed the way we needed to.
"We have to do the same this week because even though SH was an important game to people from Elizabethton, this week's game is more important because we want to beat Tennessee High and have an opportunity to win the conference championship."
The same sentiments were echoed by the Cyclones other defensive tackle, Clinton Vannoy, who recovered a fumble in last week's game.
"We need to make sure we come off the ball hard like we did last week," said Vannoy. "Hopefully, we can do the same against Tennessee High and score a few points on turnovers to give us the opportunity to win."
Jenkins feels that the defensive unit proved themselves against the Toppers, but openly admits that the effort this week will need to be as good if not better.
Said Jenkins: "We will have to play equally as well if not better and create some turnovers with our defense. An interception or two would be nice. The defense will need to put us in position to be able to anticipate what Tennessee High might do facing those situations."
Even though most people will put the Cyclones in the underdog role again this week, it is a role that many of the Cyclone players relish.
"We go from one week to the next, playing one game at a time," said senior linebacker Kelly Adkins. "I personally like playing the underdog role because I like to prove that even though we are the underdog, we're going to play the same whether we 're picked to win or picked to lose, and that is full blast on every play."
The Cyclones have already won a major battle by proving that they can compete against bigger opponents. Many doubters now realize this team is capable of taking the win against Tennessee High, but still need a large fan base to come and support them at the Stone Castle in Bristol tonight.
"This is a big conference game and we need everyone to come out and support these kids tonight at Bristol," stated Jenkins. "The Stone Castle is like any other field in that it is 100 yards long and all the mystique that surrounds it is nothing to be concerned about. We are going to give 110 percent and we want our fans there backing us on every play."
Kickoff is slated at 7:30. Fans are encouraged to come early with a lot of energy and plenty of orange and black.