Cloudland grinds to a 24-0 win over Bulldogs

Published 11:54 pm Friday, October 5, 2018

In typical fashion, the matchup between the Bulldogs and Highlanders was a hard-nosed affair in Roan Mountain Friday night.
The Highlanders made the most ground as they topped Hampton 24-0.
It was a special night for the ‘Landers as they celebrated their seniors and it is fitting that senior Josh Blair opened up the scoring for Cloudland with a 7-yard carry early in the game.
“This means a lot,” said Blair about the Highlanders defeating their rival. “I know for “Big” Mike (Lunsford) and “Little” Mike (Lunsford) it is competitive. It is fun in a way but in the end, we are all family and that is more important than football.”
Following the 7-yard score from Blair and a 2-point conversion run senior Jordan Coffey, the Highlanders led 8-0 with 10:44 left in the second quarter.
“I could have walked into the end zone on that touchdown,” said Blair. “Our line was blocking so well anybody could have run that in. Getting an early score like that just sparked some energy in us and made us play better.”
The Highlanders forced the Bulldogs to punt on the ensuing Hampton drive which allowed Cloudland to set up shop on the ‘Dogs 49. Three plays later, Coffey scooted to the end zone on a 30-yard run after popping out to the left side of the Bulldogs defensive line. Cloudland’s Conner Birchfield followed up by running in the 2-point conversion to give the Highlanders a 16-0 lead with 6:52 left in the half.
Coffey finished the night with 105 yards rushing on 16 carries.
“Coffey ran like a dang mule out there,” said Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford.
The ‘Landers defense stepped up again on Hampton’s fourth drive of the night as Birchfield picked off a pass by Bulldogs QB Alex Hardin. The interception put the Highlanders on their own 36. Following runs of 16 and 12 yards by Birchfield and Coffey, respectively, Cloudland QB Malachi Benfield connected with teammate Hunter Blair on a 35-yard touchdown toss. Birchfield ran in another 2-point conversion to give the contest its final 24-0 tally.
While the Cloudland skill players were getting things done, Lunsford felt that the Highlanders line really made the difference in Friday’s showdown in Roan Mountain.
“Offensive line played really well,” said Lunsford. “I thought we were a little older and a little strong on the defensive and offensive line. We just gave them trouble. They couldn’t block us but we could block them.”
The Bulldogs only sustained drive came in the third quarter when they moved the ball for 12 plays that saw Hampton running back Lane Potter push the ball 26 yards on five of the 12 plays. The drive, however, would be stopped when Coffey sacked Hardin for a 10-yard loss before picking off a pass from Hardin a few plays later.
According to Hampton head coach Michael Lunsford, son of Mike Lunsford, Friday’s game just came down to the Bulldogs being outsized by the Highlanders.
“They were just hard to tackle all night long,” he said. “They have strong and physical backs. They wore our guys down. Our linebackers and stuff are just smaller, and it was hard for them to stay in there and sustain tackling. They (Cloudland) do a good job. They are well coach.”
Next week, Hampton (3-4, 2-0) will be at conference opponent South Greene while Cloudland (6-1, 2-0) travels to league foe Jellico.

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