EHS looks to keep Devils feeling blue

By Allen LaMountain

ASST SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   Not having won a Mountain Lakes Conference ballgame this entire 2002 football season has left the Devils of Unicoi County feeling pretty blue. The Elizabethton Cyclones (4-2 MLC, 6-3 overall) hope to make Unicoi County (0-6, 1-8) continue to feel that way as the two Mountain Lakes Conference foes meet in the season finale at Gentry Stadium tonight.
   "It seems like we got off to a bad start and things just snowballed from there," commented Unicoi County head coach Larry Howell. "We have had games where we moved the ball well only to have a penalty or turnover happen when we should be scoring a touchdown."
   The contest features some interesting side issues however, with 'Betsy trying to solidify second place in the conference as senior tailback Walter Brown seeks to become the school's all-time single season rushing leader.
   A win by EHS, along with a complicated series of events involving Sullivan South, Sullivan Central and Daniel Boone, could see the Cyclones finish anywhere from second to fourth.
   A Central win and a South loss, along with a 'Betsy victory would see EHS finish third, while strangely enough, if Central and South both win the Cyclones would finish second in a three-way tiebreaker.
   The Cyclones would finish second with a South win and a Central loss as well, and the only way EHS would finish fourth would be if it lost to the Blue Devils.
   "We are going to try to not let that happen," said EHS head coach Tommy Jenkins. "Obviously, it would be a big feather in (Unicoi's) cap if they could beat us. They will try to do what Central did last week and focus on stopping Walter."
   While the Cougars didn't completely stop Brown -- he rushed for a game-high 117 yards -- they did derail the Cyclone offense enough in the second half to grab some much-needed momentum.
   "Losing last week will be a great motivator for us. Not just for this week, but for the playoffs also," said Brown who needs just 83 yards to eclipse former EHS great Dale Fair in the record books as 'Betsy's single-season rushing leader.
   Andrew Rhinehart rushed for 1,821 yards his senior season, but that included four playoff games as well. Brown will need to rush for 278 yards in EHS' remaining games to put his name atop the Cyclone record books.
   Asked what achieving the record would mean to him Brown said: "It would mean that all the hard work I have put in since junior high would pay off. Coming in my senior season would truly mean a lot to me."
   The Cyclones high-powered offense fell a little flat last week as senior QB Ryan Curtis struggled throwing the football against a quicker-than-anticipated Cougars front line. The Cougars had success rushing the passer as Curtis finished with 7-of-19 passing for just 75 yards and no scores and was under constant pressure.
   Curtis is a confident, quality passer and will be looking to show his performance against Central was an aberration against a Blue Devil defense that lacks enough speed to stay with Curtis' favorite target Lester Bailey.
   "Elizabethton doesn't have many weak spots," said Howell. "And speed is their main weapon. That's hard to take away from a team, but that is what we are faced with. It will be tough, but we plan to take the same approach Central did. That's what we are planning."
   The Cyclone defense should have a thing or two to say about the outcome of this contest as well as senior LB Vince Redd started rounding into playoff form with a 10-tackle performance against Central.
   Missing two quality players from the defensive line in seniors Daniel Merryman and Chad Street has had an effect on the squad.
   "Street started on both offense and defense," said Jenkins. "He is a good senior leader and we would like to have both him and Merryman healthy, but at this stage of the season everyone has players hurt."
   Game time is 7:30.