Lunsford ready to step down at Cloudland

By Wes Holtsclaw
Today could mark the end of an era.
Cloudland High School head football coach Mike Lunsford, one of the area's winningest football coaches and arguably its most successful in the past five seasons, is expected to discuss his future with his players and fellow staff this morning.
"I've got to talk to my players tomorrow, but unofficially, I'm finished," Lunsford said by phone Monday night.
The talented coach may make an official decision today.
There have been other options for the coach in past years, but he has remained loyal to his alma mater and the program he has brought success.
Whether you like him or not, you can't argue with what he has done coaching at the school.
Lunsford took the smallest football playing high school and the smallest talent pool in the region and turned a solid Region 1-1A program into a team that most 4A units in the area were hesitant to play.
In only 15 years at the helm, the coach and his staff have been very successful. His coaching career has been more than respectable.
Lunsford received a solid program from legendary coach John Orr, for whom the school's football field is named, when he began coaching in 1988.
From that point threat the end of last season, Lunsford became the ninth winningest coach in the state of Tennessee out of its current coaches who have participated in 100 or more games, with his 136-40 record and winning percentage .773 .
Out of Carter County coaches who have coached at least 10 seasons or more, Lunsford's percentage has been the best.
When you include his successful one year as the school's head girls basketball coach and many junior high teams, there has been the impressive desire to compete and win.
Lunsford and his staff have been great motivators and very successful when planning out the x's and o's of opposing teams each week.
Lunsford has coached over 15 all-state players, including five Mr. Football finalists, with two of his most recent seniors, Dane Christman and Mark Byrd, winning the honor.
He has had only one team miss the playoffs in his 16 years as a coach. That came during the 1997 season, under which he had his only blemish as a coach with a 2-8 record.
His teams have made the second round of the playoffs seven times, the quarterfinals three times, the semi-finals twice with the 2001 TSSAA 1-A State championship appearance.
Until this past season, when 4-A Morristown West fell, Cloudland was the only team east of Jefferson County to make the trip to Murfreesboro or Nashville.
It was the smallest public high school to ever play for a football championship with 208 students enrolled in grades 9-12 at the time.
Lunsford has also been very successful against schools in this county.
Since 1993, Lunsford holds a 29-5 mark against fellow Carter County schools, with two losses to Happy Valley and three losses to Hampton. He hasn't lost a county game since 1997's loss at Warrior Hill.
He achieved a 10-0 season five times.