Cloudland suvives Avery’s air attack

Published 1:00 am Saturday, September 12, 2015

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By Bryce Phillips

Star Staff

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In a wild and heated game, the Highlanders were able to pull off a 36-29 win over the Avery County (N.C.) Vikings Friday night at Orr Field in Roan Mountain.

The Highlanders made the ground rumble as they totaled 415 yards of to- tal offense, all of which came from the ground. Senior Colby Birchfield led the way with 223 yards of rushing on 31 carries, while he was helped out by his fellow senior Austin Whitehead, who chucked in 173 yard on 24 carries.

With the Landers offense centered around running, Birchfield said the team relies on tough play from every player.

Everyone has to stay in shape,”Birchfield said. “Our linemen have toopen up holes, which they do a good job of. Our receivers are spreading out wide to give us room on the outsides. So it takes work from everybody.

Avery County relied on an air attack as they bombed passes into Cloudland’s secondary. Vikings’ quarterback Luke Crowe had 254 yards passing on 16 out 28 passes. The Vikings finished the night with 489 yards of offense.

The ’Landers may have their offense down, but the kink in their armor will be their defense, Cloudland head coach Brock Pittman said.

“We are not doing the little things that we coach on defense,” Pittman said after the game. “Our offense is bailing us out every week. . . We are not very good tack- lers. We just have to get better, because the games will get harder.

The first half was a battle.

During their first drive, the ’Landers, using the legs of running back Colby Birchfield and quarterback Austin Whitehead, were able to find the board after driving from their own 35-yard line to the 2-yard line in four plays. Birchfield capped the drive off with a 2-yard touchdown rush. Whitehead busted into the endzone for the two-point conversion to give Cloudland a 8-0 lead early in the first quarter.

After Cloudland’s kickoff, Avery County started their first drive on their own 49. Two consecutive offsides by the Vikings, would push Avery back ten yards. With the Cloudland defense not budging, Viking went three and out, having to punt the ball.

The Highlanders started their next drive from their own 18. Again the Highlanders grouded and pounded their way down the field. After eight plays, Cloudland found themselves on Avery’s 48. On third and three, Whitehead busted a 26-yard run to get his team to the 22. On the next play, Birchfield rushed 21 yards before be- ing shoved out of bound sat the 1-yard line. On the next play, however, White- head easily entered the endzone. With the two-point conversion good, the ’Landers advanced their score to 16-0.

The Vikings found their sea legs during the next drive. After driving from their own 40 to Cloudland’s 19-yard line in two plays, before Vikings’ QB Luke Crowe found Levi McIntosh for 15-yard pass to put Avery on the on the four. In three plays, the Vikings found the pay dirt, with Crowe keeping the ball and rushing in from one yard out. The extra point attempt was blocked by Cloud- land’s Dakota Ashley to score advanced to 16-6 in favor of the Highlanders.

During Avery’s kickoff, the Vikings got tricky, kick- ing an onsides and recovering on their own 49. After a lengthy drive, the Vikings came up short, after turning over the on down on Cloudland’s 16.

Cloudland wouldn’t be able to get any where on their next possession, turning the ball over on downs.

The Vikings would take advantage of the ’Landers offensive woes, and score on their next possession with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Crowe to Brett Smith. With the extra point good, the Vikings were able to cut the Highlander’s lead to 16-14.

The Highlanders, with the ball back after the kickoff, the ’Landers were able to extended their lead. During their touchdown drive, Cloudland’s Birchfield carried the momentum, tallying two consectuive long runs, the first for 12 and the second for 17, putting the ’Landers on Avery’s 18. In three more plays Cloudland got into the endzone with Birchfield pushing in from four out.

The two-point conversion failed setting the score at 22-14 going into half time.

The second half was just as crazy as the first.

Avery County ended their first drive with a field goal to move the score to 22-17, with the Landers still in the lead.

The ’Landers’ first drive of the second half ended with Whitehead throwing an interception, allowing the Vikings to set up on the 50 after a penalty. The drive, however, would end with the Vikings turning the ball over on downs.

With the ball back after the Vikings’ failed possession, Cloudland fumble the ball after four plays, but would get the ball back in one defensive play with Ashley picking off a pass from Crowe. With the ball on the 12, the ’Landers scored in two plays, and with the two-point coversion no good, Cloudland moved the score to 28-17.

At end of the third quarter, the Vikings connected on a 50-yard TD pass to move the score to 28-23, putting the Highlander fans on the edge of their seats.

The Highlanders started the fourth quarter with a nine-play drive that ended in a turnover on downs, but Avery would quickly fumble al- lowing Cloudland to recove and take over on the Avery’s 37-yard line. Cloudland would take advatage and score in eight plays with Birchfield pushing in from five yards.

Avery would strike one last time with a 68-yard TD pass. However, the ’Landers, deep in their own territory would hold strong and run out the clock.