Unaka to host Highlanders in WVC battle

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2021

BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN

STAR CORRESPONDENT

A pair of high octane offenses will collide on Friday night at Goddard Field as Cloudland rolls into Stoney Creek for a Watauga Valley Conference clash with Unaka.

Both teams rolled to conference victories in week one as the Highlanders posted a 42-7 win over Jellico while the Rangers whitewashed North Greene by a 42-0 tally.

“Cloudland is a good football team, they haven’t lost anything,” Rangers head coach O’Brien Bennett said. “They send 11 tough football players at you every game and they can beat you in a lot of ways.

“They can run inside or outside, Seth Birchfield is a great football player and he is tough. I saw the film on Jellico and they gave Birchfield just a little crease and he went 90-plus yards with it.”

The Rangers (1-0, 1-0 WVC) saw a balanced offense combine with hard-nosed defense with junior quarterback Landon Ramsey delivering three touchdown passes and both Takoda Freeman and Jamol Blamo rushing for better than 100 yards.

“We were balanced offensively,” Bennett said. “We got great showings from Takoda Freeman who rushed for 117 yards and Jamol Blamo who went for 140-plus yards. Landon (Ramsey) to Devin (Ramsey) was good for three scores.”

The Rangers also benefited from turnovers with Brayden Powell sliding into coverage from his DL position and making a one-handed pickoff of North Greene quarterback Tanner Sexton.

The ‘Landers (1-0, 1-0 WVC) used a solid run game to bear against the Blue Devils with Birchfield accumulating 201 yards of rushing on nine carries – in just the first half.

“Unaka has a bunch of good backs,” ‘Landers head coach Zac Benfield said in the aftermath of the Jellico win when asked about his upcoming opponent. “They can move it on the ground and in the air. You have to pick your poison.”

Birchfield scored on runs of four yards, one yard, 50 yards and 98 yards as Jellico was unable to slow the ‘Landers offense. Senior quarterback Chase Shell was accurate and precise in going 5-of-6 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown to Gage McKinney.

Cloudland collected three sacks of the Jellico QB Kade Evans with Jacob Street getting two of them and Silas Burleson the other. Skylar Hamby had an interception as well as Cloudland held Jellico to 155 yards of total offense.

Cloudland has had the better of this rivalry for some time, but Unaka now has weapons they haven’t had in some time so this one could be a classic. Game time is set for 7:30 pm.