‘Landers take on Oakdale Eagles in second round of TSSAA playoffs

Published 11:49 pm Monday, November 8, 2021

BY ALLEN LAMOUNTAIN
STAR CORRESPONDENT
Oakdale comes into Friday night’s TSSAA Class 1-A football playoff fresh off the first playoff win in school history with a 48-10 win over Jellico.

The Eagles (8-3 overall) will step into the lion’s den at Orr Field when they take on top-seeded Cloudland (10-1 overall).

“This is a different Oakdale team,” Highlanders head coach Zac Benfield said. “We have a good opportunity but we have to take them as seriously as we possibly can. They have a good group of boys that can play.

“Their quarterback (Eli Davis) is smart and while he may not be the best athlete, he makes the right reads and the right calls and he doesn’t hurt the team with mistakes.”

The Eagles have a group of runners and receivers that have proven themselves with Timmy Holder at tailback along with Aaron Dunlap and Sidney Gregory at the wide-out position.

Oakdale scored 24.5 points per game on average and took a big win at Midway in the season finale to slide into the second spot in Region 2 behind Coalfield.

Cloudland has thrived this season behind the power run game featuring senior tailback Seth Birchfield who surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing mark and stands at 2,243 yards from scrimmage in 2021.

“Seth is a great back and so is Caleb Sluder who doesn’t get as many carries because he is such a good blocker,” Benfield said. “But the real strength of this team is our line.

“These guys have come so far this season and improved with each and every game. They are the real strength of the team and everyone knows it and appreciates them.

“At center, Landon Miller is just a solid football player who isn’t really built like a lineman but he plays like one. Dylan McClellan is a 300-pound-plus kid who moves very well for a kid his size. You don’t find many of those and Eli Benfield – who just came out last year for Scott (Porter) – and has done well. I am very blessed to have these kids and they make us strong up front on offense and defense.”

Senior quarterback Chase Shell is the one who ignites this offense from the Power-I and he has a live arm and good receivers in Dylan Shell and Gage McKinney as the ‘Landers offense has produced to a 33.5 points per game norm.

Cloudland currently is riding a seven-game win streak and comes into this game after a 42-24 victory over Greenback in their playoff opener and is taking nothing for granted in taking on Oakdale.

“After round one if you don’t come to play, you will get beat,” Benfield said. “That is what I have stressed to these kids and if we don’t come fully ready and focused we could be beat. So, the bottom line is we are taking Oakdale very seriously.”

Game time is 7 p.m.