Cougars come calling on 'Betsy senior night

By Allen LaMountain

   On Senior Night at Brown-Childress Stadium the Elizabethton Cyclones have their eyes squarely on the prize. Clinching at least second place in the Mountain Lakes Conference would be achieved with a win over the visiting Sullivan Central Cougars tonight.
   "Not that we want to settle for second, but we certainly wouldn't want to fall to third," said EHS head coach Tommy Jenkins. "But if second is the best we can do that's what we want. Getting a home playoff game is a huge incentive."
   Central (3-2 MLC, 3-5 overall) is hoping to catch the Cyclones on a down night, which could vault the Cougars to second place with a win.
   EHS (4-1 MLC, 6-2 overall) is trying to avoid a letdown after three consecutive double-digit victories over MLC rivals Sullivan East, Daniel Boone and Johnson County, but senior QB Ryan Curtis doesn't see emotion as a problem.
   "If we come to play like we have the last three or four weeks I think we will be all right," Curtis said. "With this being senior night I think we'll be really fired up. I think if we play to our full potential that we are one of the best (teams) in the conference. We don't want this to be our last home game."
   With senior tailback Walter Brown leading the ground attack, 'Betsy would seem to be in great shape as most everyone acknowledges that the Cyclone offense goes through Brown.
   "When Walter is running the way he's capable of it opens up all kinds of things in the passing game," said Curtis. "I think Central may try to do the same things as Johnson County did as far as taking away the sweep, but Walter runs well inside."
   Brown had a big night against the Longhorns with 155 yards and has rushed for better than 1,400 yards this season - even though he has come out of games in the third or fourth quarters when 'Betsy has the games' outcome in hand.
   "We know the Cyclones can do a lot of things offensively," said first-year Cougar head coach Mike Hooks. "The key is stopping number 20. If you don't stop him it doesn't matter what else they do, because they'll keep giving (the ball) to him."
   Central comes off a tough 22-7 loss to Tennessee High, in a game that was knotted at 7-7 at the half, and Hooks said the way his team played that night showed him something.
   "We had the lead at 7-0 before (THS) tied it at the half," said Hooks. "We had trouble stopping the option, but more important was we had a kid running well, and he got nicked, and couldn't come back. I thought that may have been the difference."
   Tailback Chris Ferrell rushed for 58 first-half yards for the Cougars, and gave them a short-lived seven point lead with a first-quarter touchdown run, but did not return for the second half.
   Senior QB John LeSueur may have to put Central's offense on his shoulders in order for the Cougars to have a chance, with several offensive players injured this season.
   LeSueur completed just 3-of-14 for 49 yards against the aggressive Vikings defense, and a repeat performance would not bode well for Central.
   "LeSueur is going to have to do a little bit of everything," Hooks said. "He's done all that we have asked of him this year. We had to shift to a more running offense to get things going offensively and LeSueur has had to adapt to that."
   If Central can't move the ball on the ground it will make it very tough for LeSueur to throw because 'Betsy's front five is very active.
   DL Clinton Vannoy leads the team with five quarterback sacks, and when the Cyclones can pin their ears back and rush the passer it makes for a long night for the opposing QB.
   Senior night is all about giving the players their due reward for years of service, and one such player is EHS nose tackle Matt Myers, who said, "It has meant a lot to me to play here for four years. Being a Cyclone to me has been having an attitude to never quit, having a sense of hard work ethic and playing with sportsmanship. To me it means playing from the heart."
   For Curtis, the thing he takes away from his Cyclone experience has been: "The camaraderie we build as a team and the friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I have been both observer and participant and it's been a great time for me."
   'Betsy's senior-laden squad will take the field tonight at 7:30, and some of those honored will be Brown, Vince Redd, Chad Street, Phillip Garland, Michael Porter, Craig Estep, Brandon Collins, Daniel Merryman and Wes Greer.