Cyclones seek fourth straight conference win

By Allen LaMountain

ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

   Coming off a brutally physical contest with the Johnson County Longhorns, the Elizabethton Cyclones now sit firmly in control of their own destiny going into tonight's matchup in Blountville with Sullivan Central.
   A win for Elizabethton clinches third place in the Big Eight Conference but a loss could put a serious crimp in any post-season plans the Cyclones may have.
   The Cyclones -- winner's of three straight conference games -- now sit 4-4 overall, and 3-2 in the Big Eight, while the Cougars (2-6, 2-3) are in a three-way dogfight with Unicoi County (3-5, 2-3) and Johnson County (4-4, 3-2) for the final playoff spot in the conference.
   "Central is a good football team," Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins said. "We (coaches) have emphasized to not look at the teams' record, they have lost some tough games and have played everyone tough."
   With just six seniors on the roster Central is a young, aggressive club with some experience as quarterback John LeSeuer and tailback Ryan Bos are both two-year starters for head coach John Thomas.
   "We have had a season where it's been like the old saying, 'when it rains it pours,'" said Thomas. "We played a good game against Johnson County and lost by a point. Our whole season has sort of gone like that."
   LeSeuer has had an injury plagued season, but Thomas projected him as being, "about 90 % right now. He'll play, and hopefully we'll be able to contain some of Elizabethton's big plays."
   Elizabethton's main big play threat has been tailback Walter Brown who has rushed for better than 600 yards on the season, and has shifted his game into high gear the last two weeks, rushing for 300 yards in the last two games.
   "Walter has settled into his role and is one of the premiere tailbacks in this league," Jenkins said. "Along with the improvement from our offensive line, it has helped Walter a great deal. He's the kind of back where he just needs a crease."
   EHS junior quarterback Ryan Curtis has improved by leaps and bounds over his early season play and is now a weapon in the Cyclone gun instead of a liability.
   Curtis threw three touchdown passes in last week's 35-19 win over the Longhorns, and has tossed nine scoring passes on the season.
   "Curtis is making good decisions with the ball, and his touch on passes has gotten better," Jenkins said. "One of the positives we have had is his hand is 100 %. His three touchdowns last week were on touch passes that he struggled with early on."
   Special teams has been a unit that has been explosive all season for Betsy, although Johnson County did a good job of containing the Cyclone special teams by kicking off to one side of the field.
   Thomas felt like that was a good strategy and said, "I don't think we'll be kicking it deep to them in the middle of the field. We don't want to put ourselves in too many one-on-one situations and let (EHS') speed dictate things."
   Offensively the Cougars come into the contest with a ball control type of game plan, but Thomas said, "We saw how Johnson County lined up with two tight ends and ran power I right at them. I don't know if we are physical enough to do that. Our backs are small and quick, but we'll try to take what they give us."
   Against an EHS defensive front that has been playing very well of late that looks to be a daunting task for the young Cougars as the Cyclones have stepped up defensively the last few weeks.
   "We shuffled the deck a bit and have found a good combination," said Jenkins. "Central will try to do a lot with sets and formations to confuse us. They have a good tailback and quarterback so we can't overlook them."
   Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Sullivan Central.