Johnson City Press Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sports High schools

Elizabethton's Witten passes on Sevier County opportunity

June 7th, 2014 3:05 pm by Douglas Fritz

Elizabethton's Witten passes on Sevier County opportunity

Not only can Elizabethton feel good about its new football stadium in the future, the Cyclones can also rest assured their successful head coach is happy right where he is.

Shawn Witten, pursued by Sevier County, decided home was where the heart was.

“It was honoring and extremely flattering they were interested,” said Witten, who interviewed for the position this week. “I’m appreciative and thankful.

“It just came down to having my family behind me here, and I’m definitely in a different place than I was seven years ago.”

When Witten was no longer an option, Sevier County turned things over to offensive coordinator Tony Linginfelter.

Witten is 58-29 in seven seasons with the Cyclones, including an 11-6 record in the postseason. He said his priorities have changed over the years.

“We’ve got great kids, and it’s not about me anymore,” said Witten. “At the end of the day, you look at different things. It’s tough as a husband, a father, and a role-model figure -- the things I’m trying to preach every day.

“When I was 27 years old I believed I could outwork people, and I could relate to the kids in a different way. As I’ve gotten older, I see other programs and face all of these good coaches. So now it’s about building a program. You surround yourself with great people, and you want to help the kids have a better life.”

The Sevier County job came open during May when Steve Brewer resigned. Brewer led the Smoky Bears to the Class 5A state championship in 1999, and the team was a perennial factor in the playoffs.

Combine that with an open-enrollment system in Sevier County and all of the things Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have to offer and the position was quite intriguing.

But Elizabethton has its own things to offer, including a community that faithfully supports the football program.

“It’s about having good people, good players, and good parents,” said Witten. “Any time you have a good program, it takes the entire community to make it happen.

“There’s always a lot of excitement in the Elizabethton community about football. There’s history and a lot to be proud of, including the girls basketball team winning the state championship.”

The new stadium factored into the decision, said Witten, although there is still no firm date for when the Cyclones will be playing there. But he said he was thankful to Director of Schools Ed Alexander for making it a reality.

“It’s unbelievable the things he went through to push the stadium through,” said Witten.

And to top things off, the Cyclones are coming off a good spring practice with 22 seniors on the roster for the upcoming season.

“We’ve got a lot of skill people coming back, and a lot of interior linemen,” said Witten. “The thing we’re focusing on for defense is the front seven, where Hunter Hodges in the only returning player.”

Elizabethton’s scheduled spring scrimmage with Jefferson County was canceled because of rain.

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