Improved pass defense for Cloudland

By Wes Holtsclaw
Last season, a visibly weak spot within Cloudland's first defensive unit was pass defense.
Against Hampton Friday night, the 'Landers' starting unit allowed only two pass completions, with one serving as Hampton's first score of the game. The overall performance in Cloudland's 38-13 victory could be a pretty good sign of things to come for the team.
"Our pass coverage was terrific tonight, and that was the one weak spot I was worried about," said Cloudland defensive coordinator Bo Manis. "We got beat on the outside a few times, but we just miscommunicated. We'll go over that next week."
Hampton only mustered 26 of their 87 yards through the air against Cloudland's first unit.
"The defense played super tough," said cornerback Dakota Benfield, who recovered a fumble with his eight tackles. "I was impressed with our pass defense. We messed up on (the one touchdown), but that's football. We're not going to be perfect on the field."
Cloudland allowed 163 total offensive yards, not bad, according to linebacker Dane Christman, for a unit returning five starters.
"I thought we did a good job," said Christman, who led the game with 13 tackles. "Our outside linebackers, Jonah (Horney) and Possum (Jon Pritchard), have never started, so we need to feed them in the mix."
"It won't be long until we'll all be in sync," he said. "We need to not be confused as much, and get things going faster."
The 'Landers will need to keep things in gear next week as they host 4-A rival Sullivan East.
East returns the Mountain Lakes Conference's best quarterback in junior Matt Eads and will test its game through the air against Cloudland.
Coming into the game off of an injured ankle from a scrimmage against Johnson County, Hampton quarterback Mitchell Morton displayed a gutsy effort in the first game of his senior season.
A 16-yard touchdown strike to Cody Walsh, highlighted his night.
"Our disorganization hurt us tonight," said Morton. "We had too many players running everywhere and too many mishaps. The two special teams plays killed us.
"(Cloudland has) an exceptional team, but we could've played them a better game, physically and mentally."
Hampton will take next week off before hosting Knox Catholic at home, also serving as a crucial week to rest the star player.
On the injury note, Aaron Stocton was also able to play for Cloudland. After tearing an MCL, the senior caught two passes for 24 yards and is expected to contribute on a regular basis beginning next week.
"It was good to be out on the field. Hopefully we'll have the same effect next week," said Stocton.
It will be interesting to see the gate of Friday night's game as fans were still lined up at the ticket booth before the kickoff.
An estimated attendance of close to 3,000 attended the lone game in Carter County, with fans lined around the fence and upon the hills. Coaches and fans from many other programs throughout the area were spotted for the always solid contest.
Parking was hard to find around the high school as fields and other open spots were utilized. It was the largest attendance at Orr Field since the 2001 semifinal game against South Pittsburg.