‘Landers look to avenge lopsided loss to Buffaloes
Published 12:39 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Last season the Cloudland Highlanders took a trip to Mosheim and came away with an embarrassing 42-0 loss to West Greene. Senior tailback Gage McKinney rushed for just 75 yards and the ‘Landers were kept from the end zone.
This season the Buffaloes (8-3 in 2023) have to replace their leading rusher from 2022 and have that replacement in seniors Wyatt “Doc” Moody and Nathan Smith. The quarterback is Tristan Kelly and two receivers are Janson Kesterson and Austin Franklin who are both speedy and elusive.
“West Greene runs the ball well offensively and are very disciplined on defense,” Highlanders head coach Zac Benfield said. “They won’t do a whole lot of different things but what they do they do well.”
West Greene opened the 2023 season with a 26-0 win over North Greene after an 8-3 2022 season in which they fell to Pigeon Forge in the opening round of the TSSAA playoffs.
The ‘Landers finished 2022 with three consecutive regular season wins and defeated Oakdale in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs before falling to Oliver Springs in a 6-6 season.
This season the ‘Landers have senior tailback Kyle Birchfield who rushed for 154 yards in the team’s 14-12 win over Happy Valley last week. Sophomore Bryce Birchfield started at quarterback and played well before suffering an injury in the third quarter.
“Bryce hurt his ankle bad, but that is a testament to the heart that Bryce has,” Benfield said. “He refused to come out and said, ‘tape it up’ and he went back in.”
Birchfield returned several minutes later and finished out the contest. Grayson Cole rushed for 61 yards for the ‘Landers who finished with 214 ground yards and Cloudland will need that kind of production to make a game of it against a 3A rival.
Benfield was not pleased with his offensive production against the Warriors saying, “Our offense played very, very poorly. We have to capitalize on opportunities and be consistent with what we are doing a whole lot more.”
That will have to improve against a tough West Greene defense.
“If we can’t run the ball we will have a hard time winning,” Benfield said. “I thought Kyle Birchfield played well on offense and defense last week. I was proud of the effort he put out. Last year they beat the tar out of us and we will have to play a whole lot better if we want to turn the tide in our favor this time around.”
Game time is 7:30 pm at Orr Field.