EHS safety tandem holds down last line of defense

By Allen LaMountain

   For senior strong safety Michael Porter it's one last chance to compete on the gridiron as a member of the Elizabethton Cyclones, and for junior free safety Adam Turley it's all about growing into the position vacated by graduated all-state nominee Neal Wandell.
   "Adam Turley is a good natural athlete," said EHS head coach Tommy Jenkins. "That's what you need at the free safety spot, and Turley's getting better and better. He's becoming the kind of player Wandell was for us last year. Michael is very intelligent -- and while he doesn't have that blazing speed -- he gets to the play because he knows where he is supposed to be on the football field."
   Combine a great head for the game with solid natural ability and that's the package defensive coordinator Jim Perkins has in his secondary in Turley and Porter.
   Porter, being the strong-side safety, is geared more towards run support in the 'Betsy 5-2-4 package, and that doesn't bother him because making a strong hit is what Porter thrives on.
   "My first read is the tight end, and if he blocks down I have to shake him off and get to the running back," Porter said. "If he goes into the secondary, I get a quick look inside, then I have to go with him. My job is mostly run support, and that's okay, because I like getting a good hit in on someone -- that's what defense is all about."
   Coach Jenkins agreed, saying that: "Porter will flat out hit you. He's a good tackler and a smart player in the secondary. He has concentrated on just playing defense this year and he's doing very well."
   Porter has backed that claim with top-notch numbers, collecting 28-solo and 13-assisted tackles for a combined 41 stops in eight games that Porter has made in the 'Betsy defense. Porter ranks second only to senior LB and Division 1-A prospect Vince Redd on the Cyclone defense in number of tackles and assists.
   Porter had his best game against Greeneville with nine tackles to lead the team on that day. He said of playing against the Greene Devils; "I feel like I had a pretty good game against them. They are a top-five team and playing against good teams motivates me to play well."
   For Porter -- a three-sport letterman -- the time will come soon when his prep days are over and he will have to make a decision on his future. He has some solid options ahead of him.
   "I have gotten letters from Milligan and Mars Hill for baseball," said Porter. "I'm really just enjoying my senior year right now, and my mind is geared for football right now. I may decide to go to UT, but I'm really not sure yet."
   Wherever he goes to school Porter will be studying to become a history teacher.
   "I always have enjoyed history, especially war history," he said. The great battles and stuff like that."
   For Turley those types of decisions are still a year away. Right now he is focused on football, saying: "I think we have a chance to end the season strong, and when the playoffs come we want to be ready to take on anybody. This team has progressed a lot from when Tennessee High beat us."
   Turley, who is also a wide receiver on offense, doesn't get much time out in a game as he is in on several special teams and offensive packages for EHS.
   Offensively Turley has caught 12 passes for 143 yards and was at his best against Sullivan East when he snagged a 30-yard scoring pass from Ryan Curtis and had two catches for 40 yards for the game.
   "Adam has good speed, which allows him to play on both sides of the ball, as well as special teams," commented Jenkins. "He has good hands, and on the defensive side of the ball he's a good tackler and pass defender. Turley has done well stepping into Wandell's old position."
   Turley currently ranks third on the team in total tackles with 34 (combined solo tackles and assists) and has also picked off two enemy aerials. Turley was also at his best when the Cyclones faced the Greene Devils as he was in on seven stops and defended against the high-powered Greeneville passing offense very well.
   "I would like to have one more shot at them," Turley said. "I think we could have done better in some coverages, but I felt like we did a good job. I'm comfortable with my running ability in coverage and my speed, and if we can continue to force turnovers we can go pretty far."
   One common thread that links these two athletes is that the concept of team always comes first for them.
   "I would love to stay a Cyclone my whole life," said Porter. "The guys here are great, and in a program like this it feels good just to contribute to it. Whatever I do in my future life I'm sure I will think about my time here and have good feelings about it."