Cyclones look to finish strong

By Allen LaMountain
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

   Moving up from the Region 3-A Appalachian Conference to the 4-A Big Eight hasn't given the Unicoi County Blue Devils much to smile about lately.
   After a 3-1 start that had fans in Erwin thinking playoffs for their Devils, the Unicoi County season now boils down to one thing.
   Beat EHS and you are in the playoffs, lose and you go home empty.
   "The situation facing us is if we win we're in," said Blue Devils head coach Larry Howell. "Elizabethton is a well-coached team with a lot of depth, and with our inexperience in our secondary it will be hard to stop their passing game."
   The Blue Devils have lost five in a row after a huge 13-7 win over Johnson County gave Unicoi a 3-1 record. But a 23-14 loss to Hampton on homecoming has started a snowball effect that has seen the Devils' season come down to one final contest.
   "We are very depleted at linebacker," continued Howell. "That has caused us to have to do a lot of patching things up here and there. We were thin to begin with at that position, and we lost a starter for the season."
   One positive for 'Betsy is that the ankle injury to starting tailback Walter Brown was not as serious as originally thought, and in fact Brown could play tonight, but will probably be held back until the playoffs.
   "It's his decision, but I would like to rest him for the playoffs," said Cyclones head coach Tommy Jenkins. "Walter has been such a good player here that I feel he deserves input into the situation, and he hasn't been cleared by Dr. Smith yet, so I don't think he'll play."
   If Brown can't go, look for fullback Jason Grace to start at the tailback and John David Jativa to start at fullback. Also, Jenkins would like to get sophomore Ben Fields some playing time saying, "Ben Fields has played well when he's been in there, and I think he'll see some action. His attitude is good and he's been doing well in practice."
   Defensive tackle Matt Myers is out with a broken ankle, but junior Wes Greer will step in along with sophomore Daniel Wagner. "I'm looking for one of those guys to step up and show something. They will probably alternate in and out."
   The Cyclones appear to be peaking at just the right time, winning four straight, as split end Neal Wandell and quarterback Andy Curtis have formed a dangerous scoring combination in recent weeks and are only getting better.
   For the Cyclones, they would like to get on the scoreboard quickly against a depleted Unicoi team and send in the second string for the second half to rest the starters and avoid injury.
   Unicoi's best bet is to play a slow it down game, try to keep it close, and hope they can capitalize on a turnover or penalty that sets them up in good field position.
   However, the Blue Devils have scored just 54 points in the last five weeks (10.8 avg.) and don't appear to have enough scoring punch to stay with 'Betsy.
   Quarterback Daniel Roop is the most dangerous player in the Devils' backfield, but look for the Cyclone linebackers to keep him pinned in and not let him make the big play Unicoi desperately needs.