Coach Mike Lunsford a legend in Roan Mountain and Hampton, Tennessee

Published 8:41 pm Thursday, September 21, 2023

By C.Y. Peters

For 25 years, he had poured his heart and soul into coaching high school football, molding young athletes into champions on and off the field. His dedication to the game was unmatched, but his journey had been marked by both triumph and tragedy.

As Friday’s game between Cloudland and Hampton approached, there was a sense of anticipation in the air. The entire community is buzzing with excitement, for this game would be about more than just touchdowns and tackles. It was an opportunity to honor a man who had given so much.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Coach Lunsford was head coach at Cloudland for 18 years. In 2009, he took over as head coach at Hampton, following in the footsteps of his mentor, J.C. Campbell.

Lunsford teams had seen remarkable success – 23 winning seasons, six undefeated regular seasons, 24 state playoff bids, and even a state championship game berth. His coaching had inspired countless young men, instilling in them values like teamwork, perseverance, and discipline.

But in 2022, tragedy struck. A devastating house fire had robbed Coach Lunsford of his cherished memories and accomplishments. All his plaques, trophies, footballs, and pictures were reduced to ashes. It was a loss that shook the entire community.

A special dedication is planned at Cloudland’s John Orr football field this Friday night. A table will be set up, adorned with a pristine football, ready to be adorned with messages of gratitude from the players whose lives Coach Lunsford had touched. Players from both Cloudland and Hampton will take turns signing the ball, each signature a testament to the impact he had made.

It wasn’t just about the wins and losses; it was about the lessons learned, the friendships forged, and the indomitable spirit he had instilled in them. Coach Lunsford’s legacy extended far beyond the record books. The players, inspired by his resilience in the face of adversity, played their hearts out. They all were hard-fought games, but in the end, the real victory was in the unity of the community and the enduring impact of a dedicated coach.

Coach Mike Lunsford may have lost his physical mementos in that tragic fire, but the love and respect of his players and the communities will forever burn brightly in East Tennessee.