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‘Landers opens the new season with Jellico

BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN

STAR CORRESPONDENT

Cloudland opens its 2021 football season with a home clash with conference rival Jellico on Friday night at Orr Field. The Highlanders boast a senior-laden squad with 11 including quarterback Chase Shell, running backs Seth Birchfield, Caleb Sluder, fullback Coy Laney and wide receiver Dylan Shell.

“I have a lot of good seniors, quality kids that lead the right way,” ‘Landers first-year head coach Zac Benfield said. “We have to get some more underclassmen out, but the middle school has bounced back and the youth league has built it up good and is becoming a good feeder program.”

Cloudland finished 2020 with a disappointing 24-20 loss to Oliver Springs after handling Midway 38-33 in the playoff opener. The ‘Landers (7-5 overall) handled the Blue Devils 52-28 in Jellico last season however and in four years since Jellico joined the conference, the ‘Landers have put at least 50 points on them each time.

Jellico graduated quarterback Joseph Paul but return running backs Carter Bolton and C.J. Jefferson and Benfield had some words of praise for them saying, “I remember watching them on film last year and their backs are tough. No matter how many they won or lost, their backs played tough.

“They are athletic and good. We intend to take Jellico very seriously. If we don’t we might find ourselves in a fourth-quarter battle so want to try to take care of business as quickly and efficiently as we can.”

The Blue Devils finished 3-7 in 2020 with wins over Hancock County (30-6), North Greene (46-22), and Cosby (52-6) so they have some firepower.

With just 23 players on the roster, the ‘Lander coaches know they will have to play a lot of players both ways, and that is concerning to Benfield.

“Our backs will all go both ways we know that much,” Benfield said. “We are trying to find ways to get some of the young guys in and are working with them every day to get them ready. Two things can really hurt us, injuries and COVID, so we are working hard to keep everyone healthy.”

Cloudland is solid upfront with senior center Landon Johnson and Eli Benfield at tackle. Others on the line are sophomores Dylan McClellan, Cayden Cordell, and Silas Burleson along with junior Jacob Street.

Benfield is hoping for a good size crowd to bring the enthusiasm that was sometimes missing in 2020.

“I can’t wait,” Benfield said. “The kids have worked hard in the weight room and they are ready to play.”

Game time is set for 7:30 pm.