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Former Cyclone Shawn Witten takes over in Elizabethton

Staff • Aug 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM

School: Elizabethton

Nickname: Cyclones

Coach: Shawn Witten

2006 Record: 3-7, 3-4

Offensive starters back: 5

Defensive starters back: 5

ELIZABETHTON — The once- proud football program in Elizabethton has fallen off in recent years. Among those seven defeats last year were losses to Unicoi County and Johnson County.

Hiring Shawn Witten, a star player at the school before furthering his career at Virginia Tech, may breathe new life into the Cyclones.

“We intend to restore pride and return to dominance,” he said. “Our biggest thing is going to be effort. We’re looking for kids to play hard.

“Technique and fundamentals will come if they give us their undivided attention. Our system is being changed from top to bottom. We’ll run a pro-style offense and be multiple on defense as well. We’re not going to let people dictate what we do.”

Witten received a giant share of glory when he played for Elizabethton. He wants to see the plaudits distributed among his players.

“There are no projected starters,” he said. “Nobody has earned a position yet. We’ve got to change the mentality a little and have more team discipline. We have a big sophomore class and a good group of seniors.”

Elizabethton, during the 1994-2001 era, reached the state semifinals three times.

“The foundation has been set,’’ Witten said. “We’ve got 10 opportunities — each Friday night — to show what we can do. You don’t choose to wear the orange and black. The orange and black chooses you.”

Much will be new to Witten, a former University of Tennessee graduate assistant.

“I’ve never even been to Johnson County before,” he said.

Wes Anderson, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior, will be the quarterback. He’ll be tossing the ball to Wendall Loving and Justin Fuqua, a pair of fleet receivers. Brooks Price is a quality running back.

“We’ve got to get the ball in our best players’ hands,” Witten said.

The Cyclones have an outstanding lineman in Evan Ellis (6-2, 285).

Other standouts are linemen Ryan Birchfield and Jesse Potter, tight end Bo Carter, cornerback Mark Bailey, linebacker Josh Richardson, center Chris Kelly and tight end Jake Davis.

Witten has set no timetable for returning the Cyclones to their former glory. “Right now, we’re chasing South and Tennessee High,” he said.

Witten comes from a football-minded family. Dave Rider, his grandfather, was Elizabethton’s longtime coach. Scott Rider, his uncle, is coach at Volunteer. Ryan Witten, his brother, is an assistant at Volunteer. Jason Witten, another brother, is starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys.

Elizabethton has added Stann Ogg to its staff. Ogg headed Happy Valley’s program for many years.

Eddie Pless, the Cyclones’ former coach, was appointed principal.

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