Highlanders use run game to plow through North Greene

Published 11:48 pm Friday, October 29, 2021

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

With one game left in the regular season, the Cloudland Highlanders traveled to Baileyton to take on the North Greene Huskies on a cold and rainy Friday night.

Coming into the stadium with one mission and one mission alone, the Huskies defense was no match for the high-powered Cloudland offense, leaving the Highlanders the last ones standing after the dust settled with a final score of 38-8.

North Greene began the contest with the pigskin, but it was nothing doing as Cloudland would force a punt and take over only seven plays later.

Gaining possession near midfield, the Highlanders pushed down the field on a seven-play drive that would be capped off by a one-yard rushing touchdown by Caleb Sluder.

The two-point try would be successful after quarterback Chase Shell found Maverick Simerly to make it an 8-0 ball game in favor of the ‘Landers with three minutes to go in the first.

Cloudland continued their scoring party on their next drive, one that would begin inside their own red zone at the 16-yard line. Five plays after the quarter break, the Highlanders found the promised land after Shell connected with Gage McKinney from 20 yards out to tack on six more, giving Cloudland a 14-0 advantage early in the second stanza.

After little action for a good portion of the rest of the quarter, Cloudland struck again just before half when Seth Birchfield trucked a defender as he crossed the goal line from five yards away. Sluder waltzed his way into the end zone for an extra two points, making it a 22-0 contest in favor of the visitors with less than a minute to go before the halftime break.

The Highlanders came out of the break just as they did to start the game, taking only five plays to score. The touchdown would be a result of Shell using his feet rather than his arm to cross the goal line, running it in from 27 yards out.

Birchfield would convert the two-point try, giving the ‘Landers a 30-0 advantage with only three minutes gone from the third period.

The nail in the coffin came two plays after the final quarter would begin when Birchfield outraced defenders from 68 yards out to add six more. Shell found Simerly again for the two-point conversion to implement the running clock to put things out of reach, 38-0 in favor of the ‘Landers.

The final score of the night would come from the Huskies when Tyler Sanches scored from one yard out and tacked on the two-point conversion, ending the game with a final of 38-8 in favor of Cloudland.

Birchfield finished the contest with 277 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while Sluder finished the night with 27 rushing yards on the night as well as one score and one interception. Shell finished his night completing three out of five passes, scoring two touchdowns and throwing one interception.

Many things went well for the ‘Landers as they became Class 1-A, Region 1 conference champions and Birchfield etched his name in history by totaling enough yards in the game to reach 2,000 on the year.

Cloudland head coach Zac Benfield spoke on these accomplishments, saying, “It’s great to be conference champs and all the credit goes to these kids and their hard work all throughout this season. It means a lot to our guys and to the community as well.”

“As for Seth, he is one of the hardest working kids I have ever met, and while he achieved this milestone, the only thing on his mind week in and week out is how the team performs and not just himself. To see a kid who leads by example and is a great player but is not cocky is amazing and I appreciate the heck out of him.”