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Self-inflicted wounds doom Cloudland in loss

BY AUSTIN ALEXANDER
STAR CORRESPONDENT
ROAN MOUNTAIN- On a chilly night in Roan Mountain, Orr Field was the location for a TSSAA 1A quarterfinal football game between the Cloudland Highlanders and the visiting Oliver Springs Bobcats.

A competitive, back and forth game throughout, the game came down to the dying embers with Oliver Springs snuffing out the Highlanders, 24-20.

The game began with a massive defensive stand from the Highlander defense who looked poised and ready to play. But a silly mistake on the Highlander’s punt return unit led to a fumbled punt that the Bobcats jumped on.

Oliver Springs would make no mistake with their second chance and punched the ball into the end zone with a short pass making the score 6-0 midway through the first quarter.

The Cloudland offense would take the field for the first time hoping to level the score, but they found absolutely no success getting knocked back on a three and out.

After a three and out of their own, Oliver Springs looked to keep the Highlanders off the scoreboard, but Cloudland had something else in mind.

Seth Birchfield and Caleb Sluder began their rushing onslaught exchanging smashing runs one after the other. The drive was capped off when quarterback Chase Shell found Sluder for 19 yards and a touchdown, evening the game at six.

A momentum-swinging fumble had the Highlanders almost immediately back in possession and driving down the field on the ground with Shell calling his own number from three yards out making it two quick touchdowns.

Birchfield converted the two points to give Cloudland the 14-6 lead.

Oliver Springs last drive before the half was marred in controversy and silly mistakes from the Highlanders as two pass interference calls continued the series.

The conclusion of the drive came in the form of a touchdown and two-point conversion leveling the game at the half, 14-14.

Cloudland fumbled the first run of the half and gave Oliver Springs all the momentum to start the second half.

The Bobcats converted on the first play of their drive finding the end zone from 40 yards out and giving Oliver Springs the lead back, 22-14.

Looking for redemption, the Highlanders ground attack of Birchfield and Sluder got to work smashing the Bobcats defense over and over again softening the defense up for Birchfield’s 40-yard touchdown run.

The remainder of the half was a back and forth chess match between the two teams with every move having a massive impact.

The breaking point came when a controversial Bobcat punt was ruled down at the one-yard line, forcing the Highlanders to drive the ball 99 yards for the go-ahead score.

The very next play Oliver Springs sealed the deal with a game-clinching safety.

Oliver Springs took the victory, 24-20.

The game ends the season for the Highlanders who exceeded many folks’ expectations and proved to be one of the toughest teams in the region when it comes to the trenches.

Hats off and a huge congratulations to all the hardworking seniors from the football players to the cheerleaders to the band members on a wonderful high school career.