Cyclones, Warriors set to renew acquaintances

By Ivan Sanders
During the days of the Civil War in America, it wasn't uncommon to see families divided and actually fighting against and mortally wounding siblings.
Tonight at Brown-Childress Stadium, Elizabethton and Happy Valley will meet on the gridiron battlefield with friend being pitted against friend in a county rivalry. It is a game where friendships are divided for a couple of hours for a game of good old-fashioned, hard-nose football.
"This is a pride game because these kids see and hang out with each other during the week," said Warrior coach Stan Ogg. "You turn the lights on and the scoreboard on, and these kids are out there to represent their school."
Both teams are coming into the game riding a huge wave of momentum with Happy Valley sporting a perfect 3-0 slate and Elizabethton still feeding off the huge conference win over Tennessee High last week that placed them in the driver's seat in the conference.
Yet, to take an overview of both schools, it is the Warriors who might have a slight advantage. That, in part, is due to the fact that the Cyclone camp this week has looked more like a M.A.S.H. unit with all the injuries suffered in the first two weeks of action.
"We have from five to seven players banged up pretty good right now and several of the young guys are going to get an opportunity to step up big for us this week," said Cyclone mentor Tommy Jenkins. "Our two defensive ends, Evan Lindauer and Eric Cannon, will not play due to injuries as well as cornerback Nathan Bishop and linebacker Adam Grindstaff."
Filling in at the defensive end positions will be two Cyclones that impressed in the game against the Vikings last week. Justin Conners and Logan Hyatt, both sophomores, will get the starting nod in lieu of Lindauer and Cannon. Sophomore J.C. Atkinson will replace Bishop at the corner.
Added Derek Nave: "The older guys will have to be the leaders for the younger guys that will be filling in for the players that are injured. If we see them getting down, we'll need to get them up. This is a big game for us and both teams want to win because we see each other all the time.
The Warriors, meanwhile, appear relatively healthy and ready to square off against the Cyclones. Ogg still realizes with all the injuries to Jenkins club, his team will have its hands full in controlling the size and speed of the defensive unit.
"Our line has given our young quarterback Todd Caldwell the opportunity to throw the ball and our running backs like Tim Whaley, Michael Hollifield, and Ryan Garland the running lanes so far this season," said Ogg. "The only difference is that our line hasn't seen a team with big defensive ends and quick tackles like Elizabethton has."
Jenkins knows that his defense will face a stiff chore tonight against a very good Warrior offense.
Said Jenkins: "I have a lot of respect for Coach Ogg and his staff because they get the most out of their team as anybody around. They have good kids up on the front that gives a very good young quarterback time to throw. I expect them to throw and throw well."
Just as much as Jenkins has concerns about the potent Warrior offense, Coach Ogg in retrospect has the same concerns about the talent of the Cyclone offensive unit.
Stated Ogg: "We cannot go out there and let them spend only nine or ten seconds on the field offensively. Lester Bailey and Adam Turley can take it the distance very quickly. I am impressed with the way those guys have played and when you have a good speedy team like that, you have to make them earn everything they get and not make it easy for them."
One ace in the hole the Warriors have going for them is the fact that Ogg has a former EHS player on his staff that knows the ins and outs of the Cyclone offense because he was running it the first time the two teams renewed its rivalry in 1999--Andy Curtis.
"Having Curtis on the staff will be somewhat of an advantage for them because he is familiar with what we do here," said Jenkins. "It's not like we don't know what each other does anyway because we have swapped films and they have seen what we do and we have seen what they do."
Many wonder why the two schools play being in as close proximity as they are and realizing that these guys get together for tacos and burgers throughout the week. This is a question that Ogg offered a very good explanation for.
"We schedule this game because we want to play against teams that have a first class program like Elizabethton because it is a non-conference game and it allows us to see exactly where our team stands," stated Ogg.
"The long tradition of Elizabethton football makes it hard to play down because our players, coaches, and fans get enthusiastic about us playing each other since we are only three miles apart."
Jenkins reverberated the same sentiments about the game.
"This game means a lot for being able to live in this county," said a grinning Jenkins about the way everyone approaches the game. "One thing is for sure, if you lose it sure will make it hard to live here."
Cyclone fullback Jordan Bray acknowledged the importance of the game from a pride standpoint.
"This is a big game because we have competed against each other since little league and Babe Ruth," said Bray. "It's for bragging rights because we are the bigger school in the county, and you will play harder against people you know to show you're the better team. They'll be fired up."
Being the smaller school is something Happy Valley relishes when getting ready to go against the Cyclones.
"From our prospective, we are the underdog, so it makes us dig down a little harder because we want to impress the bigger guys," quipped Ogg.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 and a large crowd is expected to fill the stadium seating quickly. A standing room only crowd is expected and fans from both schools will need to arrive early to get premium seating.