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Ring ceremony wraps up Cyclones second championship

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
With the sun shining brilliantly in the sky and hardly a cloud in the sky, the Elizabethton Cyclones finally were able to be recognized for capturing their second consecutive state championship as they were presented their state championship rings.

For many, this marked the second ring ceremony while for some it was their first making it an extra special time.

Cyclone P.A. Announcer Jason Holly read off the season’s accomplishments followed by Athletic Director Forrest Holt reading off each individual player as the coaching staff presented rings, a championship DVD, and the seniors were given their senior banner.

The stands were filled with parents and fans who finally were able to celebrate the remarkable season with their team.

It was an especial sweet sendoff to players who have committed to play collegiately as Parker Hughes (MTSU), Cole Morganstern (Air Force), Wes Erwin (Greensboro), Deuce Morton (Pikeville College), and Colby Garland (Tusculum) all will be heading off to their new football destinations.

“Finally, all the hard work is here,” said an elated Cyclone head coach Shawn Witten. “It’s just the ultimate reward today when you give the players their rings for all the hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and loyalty, hours, hours, and hours of preparation. Just to see the smile and satisfaction on their face that there finally is a reward at the end of the tunnel.”

Witten said that these rings were to be something special as a group of individuals came together to put together something that the players who received the rings will remember for their lifetime.

“A lot of people put their heads together and looked at a lot of different championship rings and tried to mimic the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl ring from a year ago,” Witten said. “We just definitely wanted to get two trophies on there to signify back-to-back. It’s just a great feeling.

“I sent a message out to all of our support staff, coaches, and players today just being able to wake up today and being truly blessed that we are in a place like this to have support like this and a community that gives us great support.”

The ceremony took place a little later than what Witten and those who worked to get the rings hoped for especially with several seniors who played on the championship team getting ready to go different ways and begin their college careers.

“We were hoping to get these a month ago sooner than later as some guys go off. We have some guys reporting on Monday to colleges – Parker, Cole Morganstern, Deuce, and some of those guys,” Witten commented.

“We wanted to try and get something in as soon as possible. The rings signify the accomplishment – the ultimate goal and ultimate reward. You just keep telling the guys and staying on them that all the work will pay off sooner than later.

“Today, it finally put it into perspective.”

Witten said that giving the team the rings is special to him as a coach but wants his team to know that although the rings are something special they will never forget, the target continues to grow larger and larger every day as teams that the Cyclones have beaten in the last two seasons will have a special date circled on their new season calendar and the ones added will be bringing their best effort.

“Part of that message today is a motivation for the days ahead. Being part of a team is just not good enough anymore – you have to make a great contribution and sacrifice,” Witten stated emphatically.

“We have put two gold balls in that trophy case and we need another one. The road doesn’t get any easier and the expectation for everyone involved is that people are coming to knock us off. For two years, 24 months, East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia have heard about the Elizabethton Cyclones and heard about the orange and black.

“There are going to be people that are going to be fired up to knock us off.”

Witten was asked about how special it is as a coach to wake up each day knowing that not only has he coached a team to not only one but two state championships in back-to-back seasons.

“To look them in the eye and they truly appreciate the work that goes in and all the tail chewings, extra sprints, extra weight – all those things that go into it – how many coaches and players go through with my granddad being a perfect example that coached his whole life and never got the opportunity to not just play for a chance to win it but to get to a state championship,” Witten commented.

“It’s just surreal. It takes an army for football and we have a small town but big dreams and that is the message that we try to get across. You don’t have to be in a big city or be in a big school or be in a 6A or whatever it may be.

“A small town and big dreams do happen.”