ELIZABETHTON — It took a little bit of fishing, but landing Markus Olds has helped the Elizabethton football program quite a bit.
The 5-10, 155-pound junior cornerback has been a valuable part of an Elizabethton defense that posted four shutouts en route to a Three Rivers Conference championship.
Olds will now help the Cyclones take aim at the Class 4A playoffs, beginning Friday at home against Huntsville Scott.
One of the team's best playmakers, Olds not only stands out on defense but also is a key player at a wide receiver position.
“He's an impact player on both sides of the ball,” said Cyclones' head coach Shawn Witten. “He really does a good job understanding our schemes. He has really carried a big load for us, and come through with big interceptions, big tackles, and big catches.
“He's a tough player, who plays physical and fast. We're excited in the growth we've seen in Markus these last couple of years.”
All of Olds' attributes were on display in Friday's 28-27 win over Sullivan South. He was solid at cornerback, and on offense he made a highlight-reel catch to set up a touchdown. Olds fought through pass interference and made a diving reception for a 28-yard gain for first down and goal at the 1-yard line.
“If there hadn't been pass interference, I wouldn't have had to lay out to catch it,” said Olds. “Once I got back in bounds, I realized I could still catch it.”
Football wasn't on Olds' radar as he moved into middle school. He said he was pretty much a baseball guy until the eighth grade, but Witten stepped into the picture.
“I played flag football when I was little, but eighth grade was my first year of playing football,” said Olds. “Coach Witten came up to me and had a long talk with me. He got me excited about the program, and the success they were having. I wanted to be a part of the program.”
It turned out to be a good move by Witten. Olds has scored seven touchdowns this season, including two defensive scores. He has 19 catches for 333 yards to go along with 27 tackles, three for loss, and three interceptions.
Offense is OK, said Olds, but defense is his bread and butter. Part of the credit for his success on that side of the ball goes to former teammate Terrence Turner.
“Last year I had Terrence, and he was a big mentor for me,” said Olds. “He helped me all the time, and there wasn't anything he wouldn't do to help me get ready for a big game. He helped me after practice, staying out there and doing 35-40 minutes of extra drills.”
Turner also provided a big-brother-like influence on Olds, keeping him out of trouble. Witten was another good role model for Olds, who has been raised by his grandmother.
“My grandmother always made sure I was a part of sports, and had everything I needed,” said Olds. “And from the eighth grade on, Coach Witten has been there every step of the way.
“Coach Witten was real successful in high school and went on to Virginia Tech, which is my favorite college team. He has definitely played a role in all of my success in high school. Each week I try to do things that make him happy.”
Olds became a full-time starter as a sophomore, and this year has developed into more of a leader.
“He's a leader for the skill group along with (Caleb) Bailey and Ethan (Thomas),” said Witten. “He learned a lot from Terrence, and he's a smart player. He's a guy who can make a lot of adjustments on the field. He does a lot of things you can't coach. He really understands what it takes to win big games in high school.”
Olds' effort, speed and athleticism help him succeed even against tall receivers.
“I'm not the tallest defensive back you will see in high school,” said Olds. “Some of (the receivers) can out-jump me, but I just do what I can do to not let them catch it and not get pass interference.”
College football could be in Olds' future, but he said he's just glancing down the road a little right now.
“It's my junior year, and they talked to us in school about looking for a college,” said Olds, who is an A and B student. “I've been doing that academic-wise. I've also been looking at schools to see if they have a football program. Honestly I'm looking forward to visiting ETSU and see what their new football program has to offer.”
Witten said Olds has a bright future.
“I think he could be a great acquisition for somebody's program,” he said. “He's a hard worker and a good kid. He does what he's supposed to do, and he's at practice every day ready to work.”