Thursday night contest could serve as springboard for Cloudland, Unaka

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, October 24, 2023

STAR CORRESPONDENT

When the game is kicked off under the lights at Orr Field on Thursday night in Roan Mountain, one thing will be for certain and that is the winner of the contest between Unaka and Cloudland will need the extra spring that winning can do for a team especially coming off tough loses and entering the first round of the playoffs next week.

Both teams need a win to get back on track as the Rangers took it on the chin from the Hampton Bulldogs last week while the Highlanders found a way to give their game away to a team that head coach Zac Benfield felt his team was as good as if not better than when the ‘Landers traveled to Rutherford, North Carolina.

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The stage will be set for the two Region 1 1-A opponents to do battle as Cloudland enters the game as the top team in Region 1 1-A, while the Rangers could either finish third or fourth depending on the outcome of the game.

“We have to be able to use the Unaka game as a springboard into the playoffs,” said Benfield. “We were in games where the competition was level and we just folded. We had a heart to heart today and it was the best practice that we have had in months. The guys really took what we had to say to heart and we are really, really focused on Unaka.”

Benfield had nothing but high praise for Coach O’Brien Bennett and the Rangers and knows that if his ‘Landers don’t bring their ‘A’ game to the field, they could end up on the losing end of an important region game.

“Coach Bennett’s team is athletic and pass heavy,” said Benfield. “They use a lot of jet motion and trickery. He has done a great job of implementing the passing game. If we don’t guard them in the open space, they are going to be lethal.”

Benfield knows his team’s offense is going to have to be able to execute and cut down on their penalties if they are hoping to get the win.

He also knows that the Rangers will be motivated coming into the contest with an opportunity to defeat the Highlanders.

“They will definitely be motivated,” said Benfield. “If they could knock us off, it would jump start them heading into the playoffs. Region 2 1-A has four really good teams. We scouted Oliver Springs and Coalfield and they are studs.”

Coalfield, Oliver Springs, and Rockwood all sit with 5-1 records in Region 2  1-A, while Greenback is a game back at 4-2.

Thursday’s game will be another classic cross-county rival contest between the two teams with kickoff slated for 7:30 pm.