Quarterfinal clash THS tall order for Cyclones

Photo by Kristen Luther
Derek Nave (44) runs through the Sullivan East defense after catching a pass for the Cyclones last week.

star staff
  The Tennessee High Vikings are the prime choice among Northeast Tennessee area high school football fans. Elizabethton hopes to become a cheeseburger in paradise after tonight's contest.
  Looking to reduce the mighty Vikings to a mere onion slice, 'Betsy will try make ground round out the boys from Bristol. As Jimmy Buffett sang in his cheeseburger song, a win over the Vikings would be some kind of sensuous treat for the Cyclones.
  "Tennessee High is loaded with outstanding athletes," stated Cyclone offensive coordinator Steve McKinney. "Not just at the skilled positions, but in the line as well."
  McKinney knows that the offense has to eliminate mistakes in order to win the football game.
  "We gave them a touchdown on the first play of the game at our place and from there they got on a role," he said. "We've got to try and control the line of scrimmage and have some success at running the football. We'll try and do whatever it takes to win this football game."
  Although the Vikings put up 35 points in their earlier meeting, three Cyclone turnovers led to three touchdowns for THS.
  "We had several young players early in the season and some older players were playing varsity for the first time," noted defensive coordinator Richard VanHuss.
  VanHuss knows the defense will need to play all out to stop the high-powered offense of the Vikings.
  "We've been watching some game film on them and they don't appear to be anything different than they did before," VanHuss said. "Why change it when you've beaten your opponents by 30 points or more the entire season."
  The Vikings have a stable full of quality backs, starting with Brandon Anderson, but VanHuss knows they can throw when they have to.
  "They have a quality receiver in Nick Howington," he said. "When you run the football the way they do, you don't have to put it in the air."
  The Cyclones realize that only four times in the 78 years of Cyclone football has a team advanced this far in the state playoffs.
  "It's been a special season because most of us are in new coaching roles," added VanHuss. "These kids have play far above and beyond what was expected."
  Cyclone linebacker/tight end Derek Nave knows what a win would mean Friday night.
  "Our entire team is ready to play because we want to make up for the last game," he said. "We realize that we made some mistakes the last game but we've worked extra hard to correct them. I think our coaches have done a great job of preparing us to play."
  Nave, who is considered one of the top linebacking prospects across the state, is beginning to be noticed by several Division 2 schools along with some Division 1 teams, including Vanderbilt.
  "I visited Vandy my after my junior season and really liked it there," he said. "I want to play college football but I'm not ready to hang up my Cyclone jersey just yet."
  McKinney gave credit to head coach Eddie Pless for keeping the team together during some rough times early in the season.
  "Eddie has been the heart and soul of this football team," McKinney said. "You won't find a player who doesn't enjoy playing for Coach Pless. He always sets our team down and tells them what to expect against with each opponent. He doesn't try and water anything down. He has a special gift of getting our the most out of our players."
  With a win over the Vikings, the Cyclones know what's at "steak." Cheeseburger in paradise and a trip to state semi-finals.
  Note: Gametime is 7 p.m.