Cloudland ground game overwhelms Rangers
BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN
The battle for supremacy in Region 1A was settled on Friday night at Orr Field. In a demonstration of domination, the Cloudland Highlanders ran 51 plays from scrimmage with not one pass attempt for 483 yards in a 48-6 win over Unaka.
The Cloudland power- I run game was on full display in the first half racking up 262 ground yards with junior running back Seth Birchfield running 19 times for 180 first-half yards and three touchdowns.
Birchfield finished with 243 yards on 27 carries and fullback Caleb Sluder finished with 190 yards including a 59-yard scamper.
“We didn’t come out playing very well,” ‘Landers head coach Scott Potter said. “We had to get together and talk about it. A lot of people were thinking we couldn’t drive the ball but tonight we knew what we had to do. They play the safety deep and don’t flood the box so why throw the ball.”
Cloudland (4-2, 2-0 conference) lost a fumble on its first possession with junior Devin Ramsey recovering at the Highlanders 27-yard line. From there Unaka (2-3, 2-1 conference) moved the ball 73 yards on seven plays with sophomore quarterback Landon Ramsey connecting with Devin Ramsey on a 24-yard pass play to give the Rangers a 6-0 lead.
From there it was all Cloudland with Birchfield capping a 65-yard drive with a three-yard run and his two-point run staked the ‘Landers to an 8-6 lead with 3:25 remaining in the first period. Unaka was pushed back to their own 11-yard line on the ensuing kickoff due to an illegal block but the Rangers drove to the ‘Landers 27 before an incompletion on 4th and one turned the ball over to Cloudland on downs.
Cloudland then traveled 73 yards – with the help of an Unaka facemask penalty – with Birchfield scoring from six yards out and he added the deuce as well for a 16-6 ‘Landers lead. The Rangers went three-and-out as Ramsey threw three incompletions and the Rangers punted.
The ‘Landers ground game continued to punish the Rangers defense with Birchfield covering 22 yards for the score to cap a 68-yard drive and he ran in his third deuce as the ‘Landers opened a 24-6 advantage.
Junior Daniel Shearl fumbled the next kickoff and was injured on the play and taken off the field by EMTs on a stretcher. His injury was undetermined at press time. Cloudland’s Coy Laney recovered at the Rangers 29-yard line.
Sophomore RB Julius Gage-McKinney scored on a one-yard run and ran for the two-pointer as well and Cloudland went into the half with a 32-6 lead. Sluder scored on a 35 yard run in the third period and McKinney cashed in the deuce and the rout was on at 40-6.
“Unaka’s linebackers played well, that number four (Drew Smith) gave us fits,” Potter said. “And losing number 10 (Daniel Shearl) hurt them quite a bit. But that’s all you can do is play hard and I tell my boys to keep an even keel and block everything else out.”
Elijah Blair scored on a one-yard run early in the fourth quarter to start the running clock.
Cloudland travels to Hampton next week while Unaka tries to rebound at Cosby.
Unaka 6 0 0 0 – 6
Cloudland 8 24 8 8 – 48
U – D.Ramsey 24 pass from L.Ramsey (pass failed) 5:57
C – Birchfield 3 run (Birchfield run) 3:25
C – Birchfield 6 run (Birchfield run) 8:06
C – Birchfield 22 run (Birchfield run) 2:38
C – McKinney 1 run (McKinney run) :24
C – Sluder 35 run (McKinney run) 0:00
C – Blair 1 run (Blair run) 10:40
BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN STAR CORRESPONDENT The Unaka Rangers (2-2 overall) are two-thirds of the way through their 1A conference schedule... read more