Friday night was the most recent, a 56-6 road punishment of Grainger.
Head coach Shawn Witten said he was pleased to see his team pick up the production on the ground against the Grizzlies. The 42-yard difference between passing yards (235) and rushing yards (193) was the closest margin the Cyclones have had all season.
“The best thing about last night was we really attacked the running game,” said Witten, whose team improved to 5-0. “We had some early big runs by Austin Outland and Bryson Rollins, and then we slid Corey (Russell) in there to get some extra carries at running back. The running game is something we’ve got to keep improving. The passing game has led us up to this point.”
Rollins had six carries for 50 yards and two touchdowns while Outland added four carries for 95 yards and a pair of scores. Rollins, a freshman, is the team’s leading rusher (326 yards) on the season.
“I think the untold story about Bryson is his vision,” said Witten. “That’s something you can’t teach. He’s able to see cuts and blocks and make cut backs. That’s what makes him stand out at an early age.”
The Cyclones’ defense was stout as well against the Grizzlies. The only down note was a long second-quarter drive by Grainger.
“The biggest thing is getting off the field on third down and being able to give the ball back to the offense,” said Witten.
Defensive lineman Gabe Deprimo led the Cyclones with seven tackles while adding a sack and one of Elizabethton’s five tackles for loss. Also on the line, Zach A. Hartley and Joseph Kechter each added five tackles while Jared Grindstaff had four.
Linebackers Kilroy Hill, Deuce Morton and Jordan Haynes each totaled six tackles.
Witten said the Cyclones have gotten a lot better this season on the back end of the defense with strong play from Russell, Evan Perkins, Drew Broome, Parker Hughes, and Zach C. Hartley.
The offensive line also performed well against the Grizzlies, and it has been surprisingly solid all season.
“Every week they continue to get better,” said Witten. “We didn’t overwhelm them with too many things early. As we’ve gone along we’ve added more to the playbook and added a few wrinkles.”
Also, quarterback Carter Everett stood out behind center. He hit on 10 of 15 passes for 198 yards and two scores.
“It’s about doing the little things, like finding open receivers,” said Witten. “He’s a third-year starter, so these are the type of things you expect now. He does things on his own.”
Russell was his usual self as an all-purpose threat. He had two touchdowns, 26 yards rushing, three catches for 79 yards, 20 yards in kickoff and punt returns, and tied for the team high with six tackles while leading the way with two tackles for loss.