Cyclones ready for Rebels in MLC showdown

Photo by Dave Boyd ElizabethtonÕs Jordan Bray makes a stop in the Science Hill game.

By Ivan Sanders
Quicker than the pulling of a cheap movie from the shelf of a video store, the Elizabethton Cyclones have buried memories of last week's heart-wrenching defeat to cross-town rival Happy Valley and have only one thought in mind -- beating the Sullivan South Rebels in tonight's key Mountain Lakes showdown.
"We have to get on with the season because last week is finished and buried," said a determined Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins. "South is a conference game and it is a game we take very seriously, realizing we have to play up to our capabilities to do things the right way."
Things around the Cyclone camp have had a blue-collar attitude as the week has been filled with hard practices on both sides of the ball as well as the special teams. It had to be this way because South is a young team with a new and hungry young coach in Jeremy Jenkins, who will be looking to climb the conference ladder for a championship.
Said Tommy Jenkins: "Jeremy has a lot of football in him for a young guy. They are in the same boat as we are because we need to beat them and they need to beat us to have a chance of winning the conference. The wing-T is out and the coaching staff is running a new offensive scheme this year, so it will definitely be challenging."
Part of that scheme involves senior Rebel quarterback Aaron Hudgins who can fling a football nearly 60 yards in the air as well as scramble when needed. A quarterback like Hudgins presents a lot of headaches for the defensive backfield, but cornerback Nathan Bishop feels the Cyclones are ready to defend the talented Rebel squad.
"Hudgins will make us have to hold our coverages longer and make us stay on our toes," said Bishop. "From what we've seen on films, when he gets into trouble his receivers take off deep because he can get it to them on the run and we have to be ready for that."
Speaking of quarterbacks, the Cyclones will be sending out a new starting QB this week in Weston Jeffers, taking over for an injured Jake Berkley, who will be sitting out anywhere from two to six weeks nursing a knee ligament injury.
Said offensive coordinator Eddie Pless: "Weston has had a good week of practice this week and has shown that he feels comfortable in the new role. Charles (Peters) is our number two quarterback and he will see playing time tonight as well. We will be solid with whoever is in there and I think it will be exciting to watch these two guys play."
The role is something that Jeffers feels he is ready to step into, even though it will be a challenge, as the game is one of importance to the Cyclones.
"Jake is more of a scrambler and I am a straight drop back passer, so I will try to do the very best I can," said Jeffers. "Being a sophomore in a group of mainly juniors and seniors is also tough, but the guys have shown that they respect me as a leader. If they don't, the offensive linemen make sure they listen to what I am saying."
Having a new quarterback sometimes creates problems for offensive lineman because of the difference in cadences of each quarterback. According to Trevor Hyder, the line has been making the adjustments needed to compensate for the differences between Berkley and Jeffers.
Said Hyder: "We are going to have to stay with our blocks a lot longer to give him a chance to throw the ball. If he has the time, he has a good arm to make the throws with. The cadences between Jake and Weston are a little different because Jake uses a fast cadence while Weston has a slower one, so we just need to get use to the difference."
Aside from a new quarterback, the same song is being played to the Cyclone coaching staff and players by Jenkins. That song is one of maintaining a solid defense while generating some much needed offense after scoring only a total of 27 points in three games, an average of nine points per contest.
"You know, we have played really good from the defensive side of the ball, but we have not put the points on the board," said Jenkins. "A key for us against South is to put some points on the board because we are not the type of team that can get behind and make a big comeback."
Jenkins is hoping that the practices his team has been through this week will carry over to tonight because of the attitude displayed on the practice field.
Said Jenkins: "Jordan (Bray) has ran the ball extremely hard in practice this week and if he brings that same work ethic to the field, he will be able to gain some major yards. We are hoping to be able to pass some with Jeffers and get Lester (Bailey) free to run as well."
The only thing that has Jenkins bothered is the fact his team has just been able to defend 30 yards in practice and not the 50 or 60 yards that Hudgins can throw.
"We don't have a player or coach one that can throw the ball as far as Hudgins can," quipped Jenkins with a smile. "We know we have to stop him defensively or it could be a long night."
Elizabethton still maintains the driver's seat in the conference as the result of beating Tennessee High, but nothing is a surety this season. Many have given up on the Cyclones, but the season is still quite long and the tradition of Cyclone football is one of never giving up.
Look for the Cyclones to bounce back solidly and with a different mentality. For EHS, this is only game number two and one that is filled with importance in the Mountain Lakes Conference.