Highlanders hold off Warriors, 8-7

Published 11:47 pm Friday, September 21, 2018

Offensively neither team was able to do too much as Cloudland held on for an 8-7 win over Happy Valley in Roan Mountain Friday night.
“You only need one more point,” said Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford. “I tell the kids all the time. It only takes one more, guys. You can’t give up, and every play counts. To loseĀ a game you only have to come up one point short. “
The majority of Cloudland’s offensive production was done by seniorĀ Jordan Coffey who had roughly 170 yards rushing and a touchdown.
“From last year our defense has stepped up, and we are just a better team overall than last year,” said Coffey.
The first half was a defensive battle. Happy Valley broke the offensive stand still first as quarterback Eli Ayers faked a handoff to HV’s Dakota Cochran before finding Warriors tight end Bryce Carter on a 34-yard passing touchdown. Happy Valley’s Michael Harrah made good on the extra-point kick to give HV a 7-0 lead with 8:42 left in the first half. The Warriors’ first touchdown was made possible by HV’s Luke Naylor recovering a fumbled punt at the Highlanders 35-yard line.
The Highlanders, however, answered after starting at their own 20 following a booming kickoff from Harrah that went into the end zone. Cloudland’s drive, which featured a 39-yard pass from Malachi Benfield to Jordan Coffey, covered 80 yards in nine plays. Coffey capped off the possession with a 14-yard touchdown carry to the right side of the HV defense. Benfield connected with Cloudland’s Josh Blair on the 2-point conversion to give the Highlanders an 8-7 lead with 4:50 left in the second quarter.
The Warriors marched into the red zone late in the second quarter. Harrah would attempt a field goal from the 19-yard line. The referees called the field goal no good, leaving confused looks on Cloudland and Happy Valley fans alike as the ball seemed to go through the uprights. Harrah would later miss another close field goal from roughly 40 yards out in the third quarter.
Midway through the fourth, the Warriors gave themselves another chance as HV’s Cameron Slone recovered a fumbled punt by Cloudland’s Connor Birchfield to put them on the Warriors 47. The Highlanders answered with three big defensive plays that saw Cloudland’s Tristan Lacy break up a pass to Warriors Will Tittle. The Warriors would have to punt from their own 47.
Cloudland took the ball over on their own 8 and chipped away at the clock as they picked up small pieces of yardage on each play. The drive would last 13 plays which included a 40-yard carry from Coffey before the Highlanders kneeled inside the Warriors 10 to run out the clock. Lunsford credited good blocking on the drive that helped Highlanders keep the Warriors offense off the field.
“The offensive line had the ball and we were in a mess, but we drove the ball 90 yards,” said Lunsford. “Tristan Lacy is normally not a blocker. We asked him to block, and I challenged him all week. He had that end around where he fell down but caught the ball. He didn’t have a lot of plays, but on that last drive, we ran every play behind him.”
It was toughed loss for the Warriors after they had many chances to take the lead throughout the contest.
“Our kids played hard, but we didn’t get it done,” said Happy Valley head coach Jason Jarrett. “We had missed opportunities. We just have to find a way to execute better.”
Next week, Cloudland (4-1, 1-0) will host Unaka for homecoming, while the Warriors (2-3, 1-1) hosts Grace Christian.

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