Cyclones hope to conquer East

Photo by Dave Boyd
Cyclone kicker Brian Freeman has booted eight field goals this season.

  Berth in Class 4A state quarterfinals at stake
  By Tim Chambers
star staff
  From Chinquipin Grove to Weaver Pike, Patriot fever is running rampant throughout the Bluff City Community. The Patriot Pasture will be surrounded by a sea of red, white and blue when Sullivan East takes the field tonight against the Elizabethton Cyclones in Class 4A second-round playoff action.
  East (10-1) finds itself in uncharted waters after 34 years on the gridiron. Elizabethton (7-4) has advanced three times past the second round.
  "Every game we live to play is like a state championship," stated Patriot head coach Ralph Nelson. "These kids have brought a great deal of excitement to the East community. People are estatic about Patriot football."
  East is led by quarterback sensation Matt Eads. The "Bluff City Bomber," threw for 1,911 yards during the regular season with 17 touchdowns. His 107 completions were tops among league quarterbacks.
  Eads' status is questionable after a nagging injury to his hand suffered in the Johnson County game.
  "We won't know until game time what Matt's status is," added Nelson.
  "We're preparing as if he will play," said Cyclone head coach Eddie Pless. "We'll adjust in case they do play another quarterback.
  "They're not 10-1 by mistake. East is a excellent football team with some good skill people."
  The Cyclones are coming off a 28-8 win over top seed Cherokee last Friday night in Rogersville. 'Betsy jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back to earn a second shot at the Patriots.
  "We've lost by one point the last two times we've played East, so that should be some incentive for our football team," added Pless. "We know they'll have a stadium full of vocal fans."
  The East crowd proved to be the 12th man in their win over 'Betsy earlier this year. They stood for almost the entire second half cheering their team on every play."
  "We are playing before a packed house every week," stated Nelson. "Our fans have waited a long time for this."
  One Patriot fan that is sure to be pulling for Coach Ralph is his seven-month-old daughter Chloe.
  "She's my good luck charm," Nelson said. "Regardless of the game's outcome, Chloe will be able to make me smile."
  The Cyclones continued their stellar defensive play last week against Cherokee. The Cyclone secondary forced 18 incomplete passes against the IMAC Conference's top rated quarterback.
  Jeremy Banner leads the conference in receiving with 37 receptions for 599 yards. Banner missed the last contest against 'Betsy.
  Meanwhile, the Cyclones were without defensive standout Charles Peters, who missed the game with a hip injury. The return of Banner and Peters should provide for an interesting matchup.
  Derek Nave, with 132 solo stops, hopes to add to that total against the high powered Patriot offense. Logan Hyatt and Justin Conner must apply relentless pressure on the quarterback if the 'Clones are to be successful.
  Weston Jeffers hopes to duplicate last week's performance, throwing for over 200 yards and a touchdown. The E-town rifle completed 14 of 20 passes with no interceptions.
  Receivers Ryan Kennedy, Levi Hooten, Nathan Bishop and J.C. Atkinson have played well above their size, and Kennedy was conference runner-up for the season with 31 catches for 508 yards and three touchdowns.
  Pless knows that going on the road makes it tougher for the orange and black.
  "Nothing has come easy for us this football season," he said. "These kids have played through all kinds of adversity. When we lost the two games by one point, we could have hung our heads and just played out the season.
  "The loss of Coach Jenkins (Tommy) before the first game was devastating for our kids. But this is a special group of young men. Anytime they take the field our coaches know they'll give a good effort. We've had a good week of practice. Our kids appear ready to play."
  Both coaches know that a rematch with Tennessee High most likely awaits the winner of Friday night's game.
  "Both teams realize the chance to be one of only eight teams left across the state would be an amazing feat," added Pless. "We aim to give it our best shot."
  Gametime is 7 p.m. at Sullivan East High School.