Tougher tasks in store for CHS line

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   This past Friday night, the Cloudland Highlander linemen got their first taste of the tough tasks ahead this football season.
   With a lack of depth in the trenches, many of the players will be seeing action on both sides.
   Seniors Chris 'The Bus' Sheets (5-11, 300), Jake Gibbs (6-2, 315) and Zack Cook (6-2, 235) will be playing both ways throughout the majority of Cloudland's games.
   The group, with fellow seniors Steven Frye and Daniel Carroll, helped Cloudland gain 436 offensive yards during their game against Hampton.
   Gibbs has held a starting position since his sophomore year, playing guard and tackle for the 'Landers.
   "I think if we get in better shape, we'll do pretty good," Gibbs said at the school's media day two weeks ago. "We need some more depth on the line, but other than that we should be okay. It's tougher, but I think we can handle it."
   Cook has played a pivotal role on the squad the past two seasons, anchoring the line at center for quarterback Mark Byrd. He agrees with Gibbs that the unit must keep in good shape.
   "I think we'll be okay as long as we run as hard as we do," he said. "It'll be no problem as long as we stay in shape. I think we've came out (to practice) better than in years past, but it's getting more difficult where we lack in depth."
   With his always tough drills, Gary Oaks is still at the front of coaching the 'Landers line.
   Oaks has coached from almost every position with the Cloudland football squad over the years, but he has specialized with the beefy boys up from, where he has been more recently.
   "The line has been working hard," Oaks said at media day. "Since there are so few linemen, we have to do quite a few reps and not get as much rest between them."
   "Right now, the linemen are even with the ones in the past, except they're going to have to go both ways and have little rest," he added. "They're going to have to get in shape to play better ball."
   Like other members of the team, the line has goals and they are crucial to the program's success.
   "We just want to go to state," said Sheets. "We're all in really good shape this year and this is a good program to play for."
   The 'Landers will see action at home this Friday night when they host 4-A rival Sullivan East.
   WESLEY'S GAMES OF THE WEEK
   Last week, I was a mediocre 12-3 in statewide game picks, as Seymour defeated Sevier County, 24-8, Goodpasture def. CPA, 26-0, and MBA def. Louisville Trinity, 17-13 to correct my foolish decisions.
   Elizabethton at Science Hill: The Cyclones begin their 2003 campaign on the road against the Hilltoppers, with a big test in store for a team losing a lot of talent. If this game were at Brown-Childress Stadium, I'd go with Elizabethton; however, Science Hill will be very tough to beat at home. SCIENCE HILL, 24-20
   Unicoi County at Happy Valley: Happy Valley is going to run all over the Blue Devils, and that's enough said. WARRIORS, 32-22
   Unaka at Hurley, Va.: Look for Joey Parlier and gang to have a solid start on the West Virginia border. The bus ride might hurt the Rangers, but I expect them to win. UNAKA, 13-6
   West Greene at Johnson County: The 'Horns will start anew this season with a solid victory. West Greene was drilled by Cherokee last week and shouldn't fare any better in Mountain City. JOHNSON COUNTY 33-12
   Sullivan East at Cloudland: The Patriots will be a much better opponent for the Highlanders this year. They didn't forget the lopsided loss at home last year and Matt Eads will throw it like crazy. CLOUDLAND 35-14
   OTHER PICKS
   Greenback 44, Pigeon Forge 13
   Dobyns-Bennett 38, Sullivan South 18
   Maryville 41, Alcoa 21
   South Pittsburg 33, Sweetwater 10
   Tennessee High 24, Cherokee 8
   Volunteer 28, Daniel Boone 9
   Goodpasture 38, Ezell-Harding 12
   Riverdale 52, Christ Presbyterian Academy 15
   Hillsboro 33, Pearl-Cohn 30
   Gatlinburg-Pittman 34, Knox Catholic 22
   David Lipscomb 28, Greenbriar 7
   Knox Central 27, William Blount 6
   Jefferson County 44, Rhea County 27
   Ridgeway 29, Briarcrest Christian 22
   DCA 25, Jackson Christian 20