Cloudland Highlanders surge above .500, claim District dominance with convincing win over Jellico

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, October 10, 2023

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By Ron Marvel

Star Correrspondent

The Highlanders are starting to build some momentum and they are showing signs that they are evolving into the Cloudland team most people in this area are used to seeing. For the first time this season, the Highlanders climbed above .500 and with the win Friday night, they took over sole possession of first place in District 1A Region 1. The convincing 22-point win over Jellico Friday night improved their record to 4-3 on the season and 3-0 in the district. Coach Zac Benfield attributed this resurgence to their return to conference play, stating, “Getting back to conference play has helped us.” The Cloudland Highlanders are undeniably making their presence felt in District 1A Region 1.

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Kyle Birchfield would fuel a rushing attack that would gain over 250 yards on the night and completely dominate the time of possession. Birchfield would finish the night with 147 yards on 27 carries. He would also score four touchdowns on the night. According to Coach Benfield, improved communication among players, especially the offensive line, and better pursuit of the ball on defense have been key factors in their success. Grayson Cole would chip in 61 yards. Birchfield would also put the ball in the air with success as he would throw an efficient 7-10 with 116 yards and a touchdown. Austin Carraway would grab three receptions and a touchdown to lead the Highlanders’ passing attack.

The Highlanders would just systematically dismember the Blue Devils and put smiles on all the faces of those in attendance for this Homecoming game. Kyle Birchfield would get things going for the Highlanders as he would follow his blockers and rumble into the endzone for a 14-yard touchdown; Grayson Cole would convert on the 2-point attempt to put the Highlanders up 8-0 early in the second period. After forcing a turnover on downs, the Highlanders would get back to work. Wet field conditions seem to have no effect on the Highlanders rushing attack as they push the ball down the field and Birchfield would dive in from three yards out to push the lead to 14-0.  Coach Benfield credited their increased intensity at the start of games for their success.   A little trickery from Jellico would be for naught, as a flag would prevent the Blue Devils from rallying before the half.

It would take the Highlanders just eight plays on their first series to push the lead to 22 as Austin Carraway would flash his receiving skills and haul in a 12-yard TD pass from Birchfield and then call his own number for the 2-point conversion. The Blue Devils would finally crack the scoreboard compliments of a Highlanders fumble, cutting the lead to 22-8, but they would get no closer as the Highlanders would eat a lot of the fourth quarter and Birchfield would put an exclamation point on the contest with a 10 yard run to give the contest its final score.

 Linebacker Austin Carraway would pace a strong defensive effort with 10 tackles and a sack, while Jacob Stinnett would contribute eight tackles. Head Coach Zac Benfield was pleased with the effort tonight: “Our boys played very well defensively tonight and tackled well better as the game went on; our linebacker and DB’s tackled well in open space. Our passing game took a step forward tonight, which was good to see.”

The Highlanders will continue District play next Friday night as they hit the road for a matchup with the 1-6 Cosby Eagles. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.