Elizabethton braces for perfect Patriots
Most people know how the west was won, but for Elizabethton football coaches the question is how can the East be conquered. Sullivan East comes into tonight's contest with an unblemished 5-0 mark, tied a top the Mountain Lakes Conference with a 2-0 mark.
Elizabethton (0-2, 2-3) is riding high after its huge win at Greeneville, but the Cyclones know they have a tall task at hand when the Patriots invade Rider Field.
"Everything starts at the quarterback position," Cyclone head coach Eddie Pless said of the Patriots.
East quarterback Matt Eads has put up numbers in five games that most players would love to have in a season. Eads has thrown for 1,086 yards and eight TDs while rushing for over 500 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Jeremy Banner has 25 catches on the year while Wes Spurgeon and Hunter Crowder give Eads three outstanding receivers on offense.
Michael Nidiffer has carried the pigskin 53 times for 554 yards and eight touchdowns, and Troy Clark is punting for a 43-yard average.
"This team is loaded with weapons," added Pless. "They have so many elements that East has not had in the past."
With upcoming games against Tennessee High, Sullivan South, Johnson County and Daniel Boone, Patriots head coach Ralph Nelson knows that Elizabethton will be the measuring stick for his squad.
"When you play Elizabethton you get a look at one of the elite," said Nelson. "They always have tradition, pride, and great athletes."
Nelson gave credit to an off season-conditioning program and good athletes as keys to his team's success.
"We have kids that believe in the things we are doing, and have bought into our system," he said.
Eads was named the Associated Press 4A player of the week for his performance last Friday against David Crockett. The do-it-all quarterback was 12 of 19 passing for 255 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 119 yards on 11 carries.
"Matt is a special kind of player," Nelson said. "You don't get what Matt has very often. He's a quality kid who makes good decisions on and off the field."
Elizabethton knows that East will be heavy favorites coming in undefeated, but the Cyclones look forward to the challenge.
"We've got to find a way to put points on the board," Pless said. "You know they can score at anytime, so we got to prevent the game from getting away from us."
The Cyclones could be without the services of free safety Charles Peters, who was injured late in the game at Greeneville.
"It's tough when you lose a three-year starter from the defensive backfield, but we won't know anything until game time," Pless said.
East knows the stakes are high if it can win this game, so each team will rely on its strengths.
"The cornerstone of our football team is our offense, while for Elizabethton it seems to be its defense," Nelson said. "They can throw the football, which concerns us, and holding Greeneville to six points was huge. Elizabethton is like a mountain in front of us, and you've got to climb that mountain to reach the top."
Said Pless: "Coach Nelson has done a top notch job with the East football program. We will have to be at our best to have a shot at winning this game."
The Cyclones will celebrate homecoming, with a parade to begin at 6 p.m. Four area skydivers will jump before kickoff.
Richard and Kim Sheffield will parachute as will principal Ed Alexander, who will do a tandem jump with Ronnie Smith. A bean supper will be held at T.A. Dugger from 4:30 to 6:30, with carry-outs available at 4 p.m.
The highlight will be the crowing of the queen at halftime.