TSSAA Class 4A State Semi-Final Preview… Cyclones gunning for a trip to Cookeville against Nolensville
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
After celebrating a big state championship in 2019, the Elizabethton Cyclones took a few days to celebrate and went straight back to the grindstone in preparation for the defense of that championship in 2020.
Even in a time of uncertainty about the season due to COVID, the players and coaches put in the work to get physically and mentally prepared to take the journey that would hopefully land in Cookeville the first weekend in December playing for another gold ball.
Now, 13 games are in the record book and the Cyclones are exactly where they planned on being at in this stage and that was in the state semifinals just 48 minutes away from that trip that every high school player and coach wants to finish out their season.
Friday night the Cyclones (13-0) make the roughly four and a half to five hour trip to the Nashville area to butt heads with the team they soundly defeated last season to earn the first trip to the state championship in over three-quarters of a century in Nolensville (8-3).
In the other Class 4A semifinal game, Lexington (12-1) will be at Haywood (9-3).
Maybe some expected the Cyclones to be on the other end of Nashville toward Tullahoma but Nolensville squashed that thought like an ant when they used a late safety to slip past the Wildcats, 15-14, to earn a second shot at the Cyclones on the Knights home turf this year.
Tullahoma had beaten the Knights earlier in the season 29-14 and possibly could have been looking past Nolensville to a showdown with the Cyclones which if so was a big mistake.
The Cyclones almost learned that the hard way last week as Greeneville came in with a stellar defensive scheme and some plays that caught the Cyclones a little off guard.
However, the Cyclones have grown and matured into a solid team and if watching their body language means anything, they don’t panic because they just have this persona about them that they know they have done everything to prepare and can overcome adversity at any time – even late in ball games.
Just don’t be surprised this week, though, if you don’t see head coach Shawn Witten and his team come out looking to get the cylinders revving early and ofter as they won’t be taking the Knights for granted in any phase of the game.
They realize that Nolensville is hungry to earn that elusive trip to Cookeville next week just like the Cyclones and the game will be competitive and a battle from the opening whistle to the final horn.
It might be cliche to say, but undoubtedly the winner of this contest will be the team that can do the fundamental things of football – make solid tackles, make few costly mistakes like penalties, eliminate turnovers, stay focused, execute offensively, get off the field quickly on defense, and stay ahead of the chains offensively.
The Cyclones have been blessed, which Coach Witten has reiterated many times as of late. They have had the luxury of playing at home for the first three playoff games and now must board a bus and make the long trip to the Nashville area.
It’s nothing that the Cyclones haven’t done in the past and the experience brought to the field should outweigh a bus trip.
After all, it’s the last hurdle before another shot at adding to the Cyclone storied history, and a second straight state championship gold ball would look mighty nice sitting next to the 2019 trophy that has found a home in the trophy case at the high school.
The coaches have studied the film, the players are making final adjustments, and Friday night at Nolensville High School, the Cyclones look to represent their school and community in the only way they know – with hustle, grit, determination, and the pride that can only come from wearing the Black and Orange.
How about them Cyclones!!
Prediction – Elizabethton 35, Nolensville 21