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Cyclones meet Springfield for Class 4A state football title

Douglas Fritz • Updated Dec 7, 2019 at 3:00 PM

COOKEVILLE — Elizabethton owns half of the state.

The other 50 percent is available for purchase. The cost? Forty-eight minutes of successful football.

Undefeated and ranked No. 1, the Cyclones will meet Springfield in the BlueCross Bowl on Saturday at Tucker Stadium with the TSSAA Class 4A state championship on the line. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. (EST).

WEMT Fox 39 will televise the game, beginning with a pregame show at 3:30.

Elizabethton brings a record of 14-0 into the contest. The Cyclones beat two-time defending state champion Greeneville in the quarterfinals before handling Nolensville, 34-12, in the semifinals.

There’s no doubt it’s a special time for the Cyclones.

“We’ve tried to tell our players it’s a lot like an overexcited Homecoming week,” said Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten. “People are kind of wanting to poke at us to do this and do that. But at the end of Homecoming week, there is a game.

“You just always have to be ready defensively. With extra time to prepare, a team will be willing to throw some different things at you. You have to be ready for the unexpected.”

Springfield enters with a mark of 11-3. The No. 9 Yellow Jackets won each of their last two games in overtime, edging Hardin County (28-21) and Haywood (17-14).

“It has been resiliency and trust,” said Springfield head coach Dustin Wilson. “The kids are believing in each other. Plenty of times they could have hung their heads and affected us the next play, but they have gotten stronger through adversity.”

Springfield averages 26 points per game while giving up 19. Elizabethton averages 37 points per contest while surrendering 11.

Both teams have earned one state title: Elizabethton in 1938, Springfield in 1993.

WHAT WITTEN SEES

Witten compared Springfield to a team the Cyclones played twice this season.

“Springfield is similar to Greeneville,” Witten said. “They are big and strong on the interior and have great athleticism on the outside. And it’s like Greeneville in the way that what you see is what you’re going to get. They don’t sugar-coat anything.

“It’s a lot of quarterback runs and running backs inside. They are very big between the guards and center. They are very sound overall. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They don’t turn the football over.”

And Springfield has enjoyed state-level success.

“They’ve been to the semifinals three years in a row,” said Witten. “They’re extremely well coached. It has been a very good program over the last couple of years.”

SPRINGFIELD OFFENSE

Kevontez Hudson has rushed for 1,141 yards and passed for 730. He has accounted for 26 touchdowns.

“Hudson does a great job,” said Witten of the Yellow Jackets’ left-handed quarterback. “He’s super quick and elusive. He does a great job of getting extra yards and keeping them in short-yardage down-and-distance situations.

“He’s so shifty and patient. He doesn’t hit the hole real quick. He waits for it to unfold. He gets lost behind the line. You really can’t find him.”

Senior running back Kevontay White has rushed for 1,110 yards and 15 touchdowns.

“White is a downhill runner,” said Witten. “He’s very physical between the tackles.”

Springfield likes to control the ball.

“They won the game against Haywood on special teams, quarterback runs, and they won time of possession,” said Witten. “They kept the ball.”

ELIZABETHTON OFFENSE

The Cyclones counter with sophomore quarterback Bryson Rollins, who has 2,825 yards of total offense and 44 total touchdowns.

“They have a quarterback who can run,” said Wilson. “That adds another dimension when the quarterback is a threat. We have to be able to keep him bottled up. He’s an absolute playmaker.”

Cade Maupin has rushed for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. Receiver Parker Hughes has 963 yards through the air with 19 touchdowns.

SPRINGFIELD DEFENSE

Witten said the Yellow Jackets aren’t lacking in speed.

“Springfield is probably the fastest defense we’ve seen all year long,” Witten said. “Both tackles are somewhat big, but the defensive ends are like skill kids. They bring a lot of pressure.”

Senior linebacker Mikie Neal leads the way with 137 tackles, 11 for loss. Kamrin Garrett has totaled 16 tackles for loss. Gabe Kelly has 76 tackles and seven interceptions.

Witten said his team needs to be ready if Springfield makes plays on defense.

“I think you have to be really ready for some sudden change in this game, and situations that may not go your way,” said Witten.

ELIZABETHTON DEFENSE

Linebacker Deuce Morton is the man in the middle for the Cyclones. He has 122 tackles on the season.

“They look like they build a scheme around keeping their opponent in front of them and letting (Morton) make plays,” said Wilson. “He’s a very solid linebacker.”

Joseph Kechter (94 tackles) Jordan Haynes (85 tackles) and Carson Stresemann (10 tackles for loss) are also among the key defenders. Jake Roberts (4 interceptions) and Zach C. Hartley (3 picks) are dangerous in the secondary.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Both teams have effective special teams units.

Witten said Springfield does a variety of things like max block on field goal attempts, rugby-style punts, and pooch kickoffs.

“They use all of their really good athletes on special teams,” said Witten. “They try to steal possessions that way.”

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