'Betsy ready for quarterfinals

The Elizabethton Cyclones will go into the TSSAA state quarterfinals this Friday for the first time since 1999.

By Tim Chambers
star staff

  The Tennessee High Vikings are undefeated riding a 12-game winning streak while the Elizabethton Cyclones continue the ride of their lives. Looking to slay the mighty Vikings, the Cyclones come calling with a sling shot and stone hoping to advance deeper in the promise land.
  Winners of sixth straight, the Cyclones know that Tennessee High will be their toughest test of the season.
  "Tennessee High is so athletic," stated Cyclone head coach Eddie Pless. "They are well coached and very disciplined. They have outstanding athletes on special teams with big play potential. We'll have to play our best to win."
  Tennessee High appeared invincible during the regular season but the last two weeks have not been easy for the Vikings. Tennessee High knocked off Morristown West 17-6 in first round action but had to come from behind last Friday to defeat Sullivan South 31-17. A fumbled punt late in the game resulted in the go-ahead touchdown.
  Meanwhile fourth seed Elizabethton has been king of the hill during the playoffs, laying the Boomhauer on Cherokee and Sullivan East.
  "Nobody really expected us to be where we are at," added Pless. "Many of our players are in uncharted waters."
  Not since 1999 has Elizabethton journeyed this far into the playoffs. With the Witten brothers leading the way, Betsy advanced to the semi-finals during the 1997, 98 and 99 seasons.
   The Cyclones were defeated by Maryville twice before losing to Knox Central the final year. Shawn played two season before continuing his career at Virginia Tech.
  Jason has become the premier tightend for the Dallas Cowboys with pro bowl in the makings. He played in every semi-final game.
  Justin Fair, who was also a part of the team, signed with the Naval Academy after a stellar football career.
  Although not as talented as the 'Clones of the late 90's, this group knows that sometimes it takes a little luck getting to the big dance.
  "Our kids want to prove that we're a better football team than the first time we played them," said Pless. "The first game we were experimenting with a new defense. We had several players on the field with not much varsity experience.
  "We tried to change some things during the course of the game and made some mistakes that you can't make against a quality opponent like Tennessee High. Our kids are excited about getting a second opportunity against one of the top ranked teams in the state."
  Few are picking the Cyclones to win with the odds being greater than a heavyweight sumo wrestler waist size.
  "This group of seniors have never had the type of season as this one since they begin playing," added Pless. "None of these kids are ready to hang up the pads just yet. We will be ready to play Friday night."
  A win over the Vikings would creating more excitement than mice in a crowded ladies restroom. But much more is at stake for the orange and black.
  At the beginning of the season the Cyclones dedicated the entire season to former Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins who passed away August 25. Jenkins succumb to cancer after fighting a courageous battle but what he left as a Cyclone has given them much to play for.
  Athletic director Larry Alderson gave this description of Jenkins.
  "Tommy was the perfect example of a Cyclone, undersized but overachieving," he said.
  Much like the Cyclone team that journeys to the Stone Castle Friday night with a line that is much smaller, backs that are less quicker, it is a mis-match if you look at both teams on paper.
  But the game will be played on the field and Coach Jenkins will be watching from above. Miracles do come in all shapes and sizes. Even in the form of a slingshot and stone.