Highlanders fall in heartbreaker to Coalfield

Published 10:27 am Monday, November 12, 2018

The Coalfield Yellowjackets just found momentum at the right time.

Down 24-15, the Yellowjackets connected on two touchdowns with the last coming in the final 30 seconds to defeat Cloudland 29-24 in the second round of the TSSAA Class A Playoffs. Friday night’s contest was played at Happy Valley High School.

It was a hardnosed game throughout as Cloudland senior Jordan Coffey grounded and pounded for over 200 yards rushing. The Highlanders, however, had playmakers across the board with K.J. Arnold, Garrison Julian, Hunter Shell, Triston Lacy, and QB Malachi Benfield, along with others, making big plays to give the Highlanders a chance.

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“We played really hard and played really strong,” said Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford. “They just had a little bit more for us there at the end. We gave them an easy score there in the second half. That just makes it hard. We didn’t make them work hard enough for some stuff there.”

The Yellowjackets, after a lengthy first drive, scored first with Ashton Jones rolling into the end zone on a 1-yard sweep.

Cloudland didn’t waste time answering with Coffey busting loose on a 48-yard TD run on the Highlanders’ first play of the ensuing drive. Coffey followed up by busting into paydirt on the 2-point conversion to give Cloudland an 8-7 lead with 21.8 seconds left in the first.

The teams swapped punts with Shell having a big pass deflection to stop big play from the Yellowjackets.

Coalfield, however, found some luck through the air as quarterback Peyton McKinney found teammate Seth Lowe on a 53-yard TD pass. Yellowjackets Johnathan Woodward ran in the 2-point giving  Coalfield a 15-8 lead with 7:55 left in the first half.

On their following drive, the Highlanders showed they could pass too. A 36-yard pass from Benfield to Triston Lacy would get the ‘Landers across the 50 before Benfield found tightend K.J. Arnold on a 7-yard TD toss. Lacy ran in the 2-point conversion to give Cloudland a 16-15 lead heading into the half.

Coalfield opened up the half. A deflected pass by Benfield and a big tackle from Arnold on a fake punt by the Yellowjackets would allow the Highlanders to get the ball on their own 42.

From there, Cloudland rumbled down the field on a lengthy drive before Coffey ran in a 2-yard. Coffey scooted into the end zone on the 2-point try allowing Cloudland to move on out 24-15 with 1:41 left in the third.

The Yellowjackets following possession would be dominated by Cloudland’s Julian who had a tackle for a 4-yard loss before getting his hand on a punt allowing the Highlanders to get good field position. Cloudland, however, would be forced to punt.

The Yellowjackets’ following drive was cut short as Shell recovered a fumble. Cloudland’s ensuing possession was also ended by a fumble which was recovered by Jones.

Jones’ recovery would allow Woodward to speed into the end zone from 40-yards out to cut Cloudland’s lead to 24-21 with 4:55 left in the game.

After forcing the Highlanders to punt, the Yellowjackets fought down the field before McKinney found Isaac Whitesburg on a 10-yard TD pass giving Coalfield a 29-24 lead with just 23.2 seconds left to play.

The Highlanders finished their season with a 9-3 record after winning the Region 1-A title, 3-0.