ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Cyclone football fans lining Elizabethton High School’s halls outside the ticket office weren’t just purchasing tickets for Saturday’s TSSAA Class 4-A state championship game — they were helping offset the cost of an expensive trip.
“We’ll probably be sold out by 3 today,” EHS Secretary Angie Peters said just after 10 a.m. Monday. She was right, thanks to fans like Buddy Swain, Susan Carter, Eddie Morrell and hundreds of others who take their high school football seriously.
“We didn’t miss a game for 10 years except when my wife was in the hospital,” said Swain, whose three grown children played in the school’s marching band. “I still try to come a couple times a year at least to home games.”
Swain could have bought an online ticket to the 16,500-seat stadium in Cookeville, home to Tennessee Tech University where the Cyclones will take on Springfield at 3 p.m. CST Saturday. Instead, he braved Monday’s cold, and $6 of his $12 purchase went to the school.
When Swain, Morrell and Carter showed up, only 498 tickets had been allotted to the school. Those tickets sold out quickly enough that TSSAA officials provided the school an additional 1,000 at midday Monday. If all those tickets sell, the school will get a $9,000 bump to help with travel costs.
“There were a couple times 20 or so years ago when we felt like we should have been there and didn’t quite make it,” Swain said of Cyclone football runs that ended in the semifinals. “I said 20 years ago if they ever got in the championship game I was going.”
Carter, who works at Elizabethton’s T.A. Dugger Junior High, said she’s excited to cheer on some of her younger son’s classmates. “My oldest son who’s in college played football through high school, my husband played football, so we’re excited for the Cyclones.”
Eddie Morrell, a 1984 EHS graduate who coaches the school’s wrestling team, said he’s not the least bit upset that some of his wrestlers are going to get a late start to their seasons.
“This actually cuts into our wrestling season by a couple weeks, but I can’t think of a better reason for a schedule to be cut a little bit short,” Morrell said. “These guys have worked hard. I’ve seen it from the minute they hit the weight room in the spring all the way through to now. It’s a special group of kids. They adapt, they overcome, and it’s just a blessing to see it.”
Morrell said it was difficult to put into words what the team’s accomplishments mean to the small city. “We thrive on Friday nights, we thrive on watching our boys excel. To be able to receive this kind of reward, even to get to this level is monumental for all of our pride.”
Ticket sales will resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Elizabethton High School. Visitors must go to the main office first.