Highlanders drop close contest to Northview

Published 2:39 am Saturday, August 20, 2016


Just like last year, the match up between Cloudland and Northview Academy was a battle. And when the dust finally settled in Kodak Friday night, the Cougars walked away with a 41-38 victory.

The Highlanders had trouble with the Cougars passing game Friday night, as Northview QB Justin Howard tossed for 267 yards on 20 passes, while recording two passing TDs. Howard connected a 30 and a 40 yard TD pass in the second half to help the Cougars stay a step in front of the Highlanders.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I knew we couldn’t give up the big plays,” Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford said. “Of course it hurt us having to bring in second and third. We had both corners out, and then we had our safety out. And that hurt us.”

As the teams headed into the fourth frame, the Cougars held a small 27-24 lead. In the final quarter, the Cougars struck first with Howard scrambling in from 12 yards out, and with the PAT good, Northview was up 34-24 with 7:52 left to play.

After the kickoff, the ’Landers were needing a quick touchdown to stay alive, and Cloudland QB Preston Benfield answered the call as he ran in a 78-yard touchdown, before sneaking in the 2-point conversion to make the score 34-32. Benfield finished Friday night with 138 yards rushing on eight carriers.

“This was his first game playing quarterback, and he made some unbelievable plays,” Lunsford said about Benfield.

The Cougars would strike again as Howard found his favorite target Haidan McGee on a 40-yard TD toss, allowing Northview to push ahead 41-32 with 5:12 left in the game.

Cloudland, starting on its own 21 for its last drive, pushed down the field as time ticked away. Alternating runs between Preston Benfield and his brother Malachi, the Highlanders fought deep into the Cougars’ territory, before Preston Benfield found Highlanders Brinkley Mull for a 5-yard touchdown pass, making it a 41-38 game with just 42 second left.

With Cloudland’s onsides kick attempt failing, the Cougars would run time out with a knee during their final drive.

The third period saw Cloudland strike first with Jordan Coffey busting in from a yard out. Cloudland’s Jason Potter ran in for the 2-point conversion to give Cloudland a 24-20 lead, before Northview answered with a Howard passing TD to make it a 27-24 game.

Just the like second half, the first was also a battle.

After forcing Cloudland to punt the ball on its first drive, the Cougars were able to find the board first with a 35-yard TD pass from Howard to Zeb Petty, and with the PAT good, Northview took a 7-0 lead with 6:31 left in the first quarter.

On their second drive, the Highlanders were able to find paydirt. After taking the ball on their own 34-yard line, the ’Landers drove down to the Cougars 18, before Preston Benfield connected with Brinkley Mull on a 15-yard pass play. From there, Noah Arnett pounded it in from three out, before busting into the endzone on the 2-point conversion to give the Highlanders a 8-7 lead with 11:25 left in the second quarter.

The Cougars would push out to a 13-8 edge with 5:16 left in the second, before Cloudland’s Arnett found the endzone again on a four-yard run to put Cloudland up 16-13 with little less than two minutes left to play in the first half.

At the half, the Cougars headed to the locker rooms with a 20-16 lead, after Howard found the endzone from nine yards out with just seven seconds left to play in the second quarter.

For the ’Landers, Arnett finished with 118 yards on 23 carries, while Cloudland’s Jordan Coffey finished with 83 yards on 13 touches. Both Arnett and Coffey would have to head to the sidelines in the third period due injuries, putting a untimely hamper on the Cloudland offense.

“We lost our first tailback and our second tailback, and we had to put a freshmen in at tailback, but it is just one of those things,” Lunsford said.

After Friday night’s game, as the Highlanders took a knee, coach Lunsford praised senior Noah Blair for his performance. Blair, who plays on the line, had to size up against Northview’s Cliff Cole, who Lunsford knew would be a challenge for Cloudland.

“I watched him last year, and he was the best lineman around,” Lunsford said about Cole. “Noah Blair whipped him all night.”

The Highlanders will host Happy Valley next Friday.