‘Landers conquer Longhorns on the road

Published 4:54 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

BY NIC MILLER
STAR STAFF
nic.miller@elizabethton.com

The Cloudland Highlanders were back in action this week after a huge win against county rival Happy Valley, but it was unusual circumstances for the squad from Roan Mountain, playing on a Thursday night and traveling to Mountain City to take on the Johnson County Longhorns.

To kick things off, the Longhorns started with the pigskin, but it did not matter as a fourth down stop by Cloudland would give the Highlanders the opportunity to strike first.

And strike first they would, as the ‘Landers would begin their scoring efforts with a seven-yard touchdown on the ground from Seth Birchfield to make it 6-0.  Caleb Sluder tacked on two more on the conversion try, giving the visitors an 8-0 advantage midway through the first.

But Johnson County would not go away so quick, as a bad punt snap from Cloudland on the next possession gave the Longhorns possession inside the Highlander five- yard line, where quarterback Connor Simcox would be the one catching a touchdown pass, making it 8-6 late in the first period.

After a great return by Birchfield as well as a penalty on the Longhorns during the ensuing kickoff, Cloudland took over deep in enemy territory. And it would take Birchfield one play to get going on the drive, scoring his second touchdown on the night as well as the two point try to give the ‘Landers a 16-6 lead with two minutes in the first stanza.

The Highlanders struck once again midway through the second quarter, when Sluder got his first taste of the end zone from 49 yards out to make it 22-6 in favor of Cloudland.

And after a blocked punt by Cloudland, the Highlanders found the promised land once more in the first half when Birchfield took the hand off 14 yards for the score.

Quarterback Chase Shell found his receiver Gage McKinney in the back of the end zone to add on two more and make it a 30-6 contest, a score that would hold true all the way through the halftime break.

The ‘Landers started the second half with a bang, when on their inaugural drive Shell would find McKinney once again, this time from 29 yards out for six points. With only two minutes gone in the third, the ‘Landers had blown it open, 36-6.

Cloudland would force a running clock on their next possession after Birchfield did what he does best, outracing defenders 57 yards and across the goal line, making it a 42-6 affair in favor of the Highlanders midway through the third period.

But the running clock did not take much effect afterwards, as a lightning strike between the third and fourth quarter suspended play. However, there was one stipulation. Because of the lopsided score, both coaches agreed that another lightning strike would conclude the game.

And before either team could make it off the field, another lighting strike greeted the area, finishing the contest after three quarters by a final of 42-6 in favor of the Highlanders.

After the game, Cloudland head coach Zac Benfield spoke on his team’s performance, saying, “Our offense did well tonight, but I really thought that our defense played well in this one. Our offense was a little undisciplined as far as penalties, but that was really the only drawback I saw from these guys tonight.

“Overall it was a great win for our team and now it’s time for us  to get back to work and prepare for next week’s game.”

Cloudland will conclude their regular season on the road once more as they take on the Huskies of North Greene next Friday at 7:30 p.m.