Cloudland celebrates 75th Anniversary with 72-6 win over Unaka

Published 2:08 pm Saturday, October 1, 2016


The atmosphere was electric in Roan Mountain Friday night as the Cloudland Highlanders celebrated 75 years of football in the highlands.
The celebration was capped off with a 72-6 win over the Unaka Rangers to move the Highlanders to 3-0 in Region 1-A football.
“This was Highlanders football at its best with the atmosphere and everyone who showed up to support the kids,” said Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford.
Before the game, Lunsford had the opportunity to take a photo with legendary Cloudland coach John Orr, who is the person that Lunsford credits with inspiring him to become a football coach.
“He is the real reason that I went into coaching, to begin with,” Lunsford said about Orr.
As the Highlanders headed to the locker room after the game, senior Highlander Noah Blair, who plays a key role on the Cloudland line, took a moment to talk about what Cloudland football means to him.
“It is my life,” he said. “It has always been my life ever since I was five or six years old. I dreamed of the moment that I would be a senior on the high school football team.
“It just means so much because the seniors have given it their all the last four years of their lives,” Blair added.
Before the close of the first quarter, the Highlanders blasted out to 34-0 lead over the Rangers. Senior running back Noah Arnett accounted for three of the Highlanders first-period touchdowns with the longest being a 47-yard touchdown rush on his first carry of the game.
Arnett finished the night with 168 yards rushing on 11 carries and four touchdowns.
The first quarter also saw Cloudland senior QB Preston Benfield scamper to the end zone on a 26-yard run on his only carry of the night.
The second quarter got started with Highlanders Josh Blair sprinting to paydirt on a 4-yard rush before Hunter Blair ran the two-point conversion to give Cloudland a 40-0 lead.
Josh Blair would close out the night with 61 yards on just two carriers.
The Highlanders got board one more time in the first half as Cloudland’s Malachi Benfield returned an interception 60 yards for a TD. Preston Benfield pushed in the two-point conversion to give Cloudland a 56-0 lead with 19 seconds left in the first half.
However, the Rangers would get in the last touchdown of the half as Unaka’s Dakota Gallimore returned a 71-yarder. Gallimore’s touchdown was assisted by a bone-shaking block from Unaka’s Bryson Street.
As the teams headed to the locker rooms, the Highlanders led 56-6.
The only score in the third quarter came from a 2-yard TD pass from Benfield to Ethan Howell, and with the PAT good, Cloudland led 64-6 midway through the third.
To close out Friday night’s scoring, Hunter Blair ran in a 48-yarder to help give the Highlanders their final total.
Cloudland will hosts the Sullivan East Patriot next week for senior night, while Unaka will travel over to Oakdale for a Region 1-A matchup.