Cyclones look primed to defend conference
By ALLEN LaMOUNTAIN
Assistant Sports Editor
Coming off a 7-5 season -- with a playoff win,
and a conference title in the mix -- would be considered a
smashing success at most schools. Elizabethton High School
is not just any school however, particularly when it comes
Winning teams have become the expectation at
EHS, and this season should gives fans plenty of reasons to
There is more depth at crucial positions this
season than there was last year, when injuries decimated the
quality depth on the squad.
Offensively it all starts with the quarterback,
and that is one position that is still mostly an unknown quantity,
with junior Ryan Curtis expected to be the starter once he
recovers from a broken bone in his throwing hand.
"Ryan is coming along with his injury," said
Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins. "He's day-to-day right now.
He's been throwing some, but it will depend upon how well
he can take the snap from center as to when he can play."
Curtis has the great size for the position, standing
6-3, which enables him to scan the field and throw over tall
Curtis -- whose older brother Andy passed for
better than 1,000 yards in two consecutive seasons -- will
be seeing his first starting duty since his freshman season.
Right now junior Phillip Garland is handling
those chores, and looking pretty good doing so. Garland is
not a prototypical sized passer, standing about 5-9, but he
is quick and has a good grasp of the Cyclone offense.
"Garland has been practicing well, and he had
a good scrimmage against Sullivan North." said Jenkins.
The Besty backfield will have plenty of quality
and quantity as Neal Wandell and Walter Brown will split time
at tailback, with Wandell the recognized starter.
Wandell -- who is tall and rangy -- will move
to the flanker spot when Brown comes in a tailback to take
advantage of his speed, size and good receiving ability.
"Walter is an athlete," commented Jenkins. "We
have the luxury of playing him at different spots and have
him do a good job."
On defense Wandell will be the free safety where
he will take advantage of his size and speed to take the opposing
teams' best receiver out of the game.
"Neal loves to hit people," said Jenkins. "He
covers a lot of ground, and defense is really his forte. We
want to just be careful not to wear him out."
Jason Grace will start at fullback, but will
be spelled by Jon David Jativa and sophomore Mitchell Bowers.
Grace will be one of the starting linebackers
defensively, along with Vince Redd and Andrew Presnell.
On the wing will be speedy Lester Bailey -- taking
over for departed receiving leader Trey Avery -- while Daniel
Merryman handles the tight end duties.
Also at the receiver spot will be senior Josh
Fair and junior Patrick Frost.
The line of scrimmage will be in capable -- and
large -- hands on both sides of the ball as Wes Greer (OG-DL),
Marvin Smith (OT-DT), Presnell (C-MLB), Wes Peters (OG-DT)
and Joseph Taylor (OT-DL) provide size and toughness on the
Also in the mix are Tia Nidiffer (6-2, 330),
Matt Myers, sophomore Cody Bunton, and junior Chad Street
to provide quality depth in the trenches.
The defensive backfield will feature Wandell
and possibly sophomore Adam Turley at safety, with Michael
Porter and Fair getting their share of snaps.
At one cornerback slot will be Bailey, with Brown,
Sandy Nave, Garland and Justin Williams all competing for
With the Big Six Conference now adding two new
schools -- Unicoi and Johnson County -- Elizabethton has dropped
it's long running feud with 5-A's Dobyns-Bennett.
Science Hill has been retained on the schedule
as are the Happy Valley Warriors and Greeneville as the only
non-conference foes on the slate.