Cloudland moves one step closer to conference title

Published 11:49 pm Friday, August 26, 2022

By C.Y. Peters
Star Correspondent
What a great night for football, beautiful green mountains, the fresh smell of popcorn in the air and Dallas Birchfield running the security in Roan Mountain.  As predicted Orr field was packed with fans to watch the best game of the year in Region 1-A football. Pastor Jason Simerly got the night started with a prayer and the Highlander band sounded off the National Anthem.  Cloudland won the toss and chose to receive the ball.
After two short gains, Gage McKinney took the ball around the right end for a 74-yard touchdown but a flag brought the ball back to the Cloudland 17.  Cloudland was forced to punt from the 14. A fake punt moved the ball to the 35 and a Cloudland first down.  Cloudland moved the ball to the 17-yard line before getting another 10-yard penalty.  Austin Caraway broke in the flats wide open but was overthrown.  Two plays later Cayden Clark made a catch, broke a couple of tackles and scored on a 16-yard pass.  Gage McKinney added the PAT and with 2:11 left in the first, Cloudland led 8-0.
On Unaka’s first possession Ramsey went up the middle for no gain, Hand-off to Jamol Blamo who ran right up the middle 56 yards to the nine-yard line.  Two plays later the Rangers move the ball to the 2-yard line before the quarter ends. A huge penalty of delay of the game on Unaka with the ball on the one moved them to the six.  From the six, fourth and goal Ramsey hit Blamo on a six-yard touchdown pass.  Blamo’s two-point conversion tied the game at eight with 10:51 to go in the first half.
Cloudland was moving the ball well to the 36 when the flags began to fly.  Four back-to-back penalties moved the ball back to the 35.  A big sack by Unaka’s Jack Wilson pushed the Landers back to the 33.  On the next play McKinney broke loose for a 67- year run and a Cloudland touchdown.  Birchfield added the two points for a 16-8 lead with 3:56 to play.
On the Rangers’ possession, the flags came down as well.  Two times for a loss of yards, but Ramsey connects on two passes to Takoda Freeman for 30 yards and then Blamo bust the line up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown with 1:46 to play.  The PAT failed and the Landers led 16-14.
On the kick-off, Ramsey sends it to the one-yard line where McKinney picks up the ball and outruns the Rangers for a 99-yard touchdown and pushes the Landers lead to 22-14.  Birchfield adds the points after and stretches the lead to ten.
Two incomplete passes and the Rangers fumble, Cloudland’s Jacob Street recovers the ball at the 22.  A penalty moves the ball back to the 32.  Cloudland runs four plays and turns the ball over on downs with .18 seconds left in the half.
Two quick completions for Ramsey, then Freeman had got behind the Lander defenders and the 45-yard pass hit it where it should, but it slipped through his hands and the half came to an end.
 Cloudland controlled the ball for over 19 minutes of the first half.  The Landers rushed for 131 yards on the ground and a 99-yard return; they were 0 for 3 in passing.  Unaka rushed for 103 yards and Ramsey was 6 for 8 for 69 yards.  Cloudland had seven first downs to the Rangers four.  Cloudland was penalized eight times for 85 yards and Unaka five times for 35.
Second Half:
The Rangers get the ball to start the second half and come out throwing. Three completions move the ball to the Cloudland 27 but another dropped pass, fumbled snap, and a penalty stalls the Rangers and the Landers take over on downs.  The Landers just hard-nosed pushed the ball down the field with straight up the middle runs. The offensive line just pushed the Rangers out of the way.  McKinney takes the ball in from the one for his third score, Birchfield adds the two points and Cloudland leads 32-14.
The pursuing onside kick gives the Landers back the ball on the Ranger 48.  Cloudland kept the ball all but 2:15 seconds of the third quarter, making the Rangers defense on the field for over 28 minutes of the first three quarters.  With 11:21 remaining, McKinney worked his way to the end zone for his fourth score, and Landers extend the lead to 38-14.  The Rangers go to the air, Ramsey to Freemon on 36 and 37-yard passes for a score with 8.32 to play, Unaka pulls with 16, 38 to 22 after Blamo’s two-point conversion.  The Rangers on-side kick and recover the ball on the Lander 42.  A complete pass to Johnny Douglas moved the ball to the six and a Ramsey keeper around the right end for the score.  The PAT fails and the score is 38-28 with 6:29 to play.  The onside kick fails and Cloudland gets the ball.  Working the ball down the field McKinney pushes his way in to secure the win for the Landers with 2:01 to play. Unaka would get the ball one more time trailing 44-28.  Ramsey fires a bomb to A.J. Greenless down to the Cloudland 30.  Time ran out as the Rangers turned the ball over on downs.
Cloudland had 13 penalties (130 yards) and Unaka 13 (97 yards).  Ramsey completed 18 of 24 passes for 267 yards.

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