Cyclones set sights on conference title

By Ivan Sanders
The Elizabethton football season up to tonight's game, the final regular-season contest of 2003, has been comparable to a surfer who searches for that one giant wave that will elevate him to a grand crest, one that overtakes all the lesser minuscule waves in its path.
After starting the season on a ride that took the Cyclones from a sine wave of a two-point loss at Science Hill to a critical one-point win over Tennessee High, back to another minuscule loss to Happy Valley, and everyone has wondered if the Cyclones could put an end to the cycle.
The Cyclones have proven to everyone that not only could they put a halt on the cycle, but now are riding a wave of momentum that has head coach Tommy Jenkins and squad staring directly in the face of a potential conference title if things fall into place against a Unicoi County team that has seen its share of misfortunes this season.
"It's been an emotional season, but we've battled through it," said Jenkins on Wednesday. "We went from a game where we had a hard loss to one where we pulled out a great win back to one where we were dealt another tough defeat."
It will be Senior Night for the 2003 Cyclones, and Jenkins hopes that will be motivation enough for the seniors to step up big and help direct the younger players on the team to the title and homefield advantage through the playoffs.
Said Jenkins: "It better! If I were a senior I would want to make my last regular-season game to be a memorable one, especially if it was for a conference championship.
"I really want all the seniors to play as much as possible tonight and receive the recognition they deserve for the four years they have given to the program. Hopefully, a lot of their families will be to watch the game as well."
Unicoi County will have something to say about the Cyclones just picking up the hardware and heading back to the trophy case. In a league that has been filled with parity all season, nothing is a definite in any game, especially with one of this magnitude.
"Unicoi is not just going to lay down for us tonight," said Cyclone senior defensive lineman Clinton Vannoy. "This is basically their last game of the season, and they would like nothing more to beat Elizabethton and ruin our title hopes."
It's one thing to say that a team had better not overlook a team in Unicoi's position, and another to go out and put an exclamation on the same statement. For Unicoi County, a win on Dave Rider Field would close its season on a positive note and allow the coaching staff to have something to build upon when spring drills resume.
"I really expect them to come out and play like they have nothing to lose because they don't," said senior fullback Justin Grace, a Cyclone that has stepped up his play since replacing Jordan Bray, who suffered a season-ending knee injury around midseason.
"We have a lot on the line tonight and I know they will come out wanting to mess up our chances of winning the conference."
The Cyclones had this course charted early in the season with a destination of returning the title back to Elizabethton. Right now, the only thing that stands in the way of accomplishing this goal is a breakdown by the Cyclones in executing its game plan the way it has been drawn since preseason.
"We don't have to depend on another team to do anything for us to win the conference," stated Jenkins. "The only thing we have to do is take our destiny in our own hands and reach it."
Added Jenkins: "If you win a championship, it's something you will remember for the rest of your life. We are playing much better as a team since the Boone game. We've played through the adversity of losing eight or nine guys and then having to put our young guys out there to grow up in a hurry. I think these guys are ready to do whatever it takes to bring that title back to Elizabethton."
Game activities will get underway around 7 p.m. when the seniors are recognized with their families. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.