BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
The Elizabethton Cyclones have been waking up and going to bed for the last 364 days thinking about what could have been, what should have been, and what happened at this same stage in the 2017 season on the road at Anderson County High School in the second round of the TSSAA football playoffs.
Now, they have an opportunity at redemption after having been eliminated by the Mavericks last year in a game that wasn’t played at the highest level for Elizabethton.
“It’s one of those been there, done that scenarios this week,” said Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten. “We have a chance at redemption, and we hope the experience gained over the last 12 months pays off for us.
“The second time around we will be better prepared and are working not to make the same mistakes twice. Nothing is easy, and we must focus on detail as well as learn from our mistakes.
“We want these guys that were on this team in 2017 to learn from the mistakes that we made in 2017.”
For Elizabethton, it took a hard-fought, rain-chilled contest last week against Howard to survive and advance to another opportunity this week with a 28-14 win, and the Cyclones have been working hard in preparation for another week of possibly playing in the same cold and rain.
“We have been putting balls in a cooler of water and spraying the ball with water to get ready for this week,” Witten said. “The receivers have been getting a hand full of ice and then catching footballs.
“We can’t make any excuses because it will be the same for them as it will be for us. We are fortunate to be in round 2 because the rain, wind, and cold seemed to get to Carter (Everett) last week.
“At this point and time, it’s all mental.”
The Cyclones are no stranger to facing adversity in their past playoff experience and realize that an opportunity at a state championship runs through one of the toughest gauntlets in any of the state having to overcome Greeneville and Anderson County who are ranked first and second respectively in Class 4A.
In retrospect, it is like what the Cyclones had to overcome when playing Christian Academy of Knoxville in 2016.
“We played not to lose last year against Anderson Co., and we didn’t do the things that we needed to do,” Witten said. “It’s an extremely tough challenge and our approach has been different this season.
“We are mentally where we need to be this year. I feel like we are better matched up this year than we were last year,” Witten continued. “We are better at the skilled positions allowing us to match up better.
“We just have to do a good job offensively.”
Witten knows that the Mavericks get their leadership and inspiration from their quarterback, Stanton Martin, and for the Cyclones to be successful it all starts with keeping the senior signal caller in check.
“We are going to have to be tougher than #9 to win this game,” Witten added. “Last year he had them up at Greeneville in the first quarter before getting injured but still stayed on the field trying to will his team to a win.
“I know they have had the Greeneville game circled on their calendar just as we have had this game circled on ours. We have to be tougher than that young man to win this game.”
Kickoff in Clinton is 7 pm.