'Landers shouldn't despair after loss

Asst. Sports Editor

  The Hampton Bulldogs finally took a bite out of the Cloudland Highlanders on Friday night, ending a 10-game losing streak to the Roan Mountain club.
  It has been many years since the Highlanders started off a season 0-1, but by no means is the team is down for the count. If these kids have their heads on their shoulders, they can take this loss as a learning experience and put this young team with its new head coach back into the win column.
  "I am disappointed but not discouraged," Highlander head coach Gary Keith said. "It takes time to replace an offensive line. Hampton blocked and tackled better than us. They were just better than us on this night. I guess I am responsible for that."
  The 'Landers were asleep offensively until the top of the fourth quarter, when Jonah Horney, who had worked like a mad demon all night long, came around the outside for the lone touchdown for Cloudland.
  Horney carried his team, rushing 19-92 with nine tackles and five assists. Jonathan "Possum" Pritchard had nine tackles and six assists. Quarterback Toby King also had a good night, averaging 7.6 yards.
  B.J. Johnson and Nick Winchester had the only two sacks of the night for Cloudland.
  But it appeared that the main thing the 'Landers were lacking was confidence in themselves and their teammates. After being told these past few weeks that they would never beat Hampton, mentally the team had broken down until that fourth quarter, when they simply finally got good and mad.
  Discussions between area media, area coaches, Internet postings and water cooler chatter may have hindered the confidence of a team, which has not been a true underdog in a regular-season game in a number of years.
  What the team has to remember to be successful is that it is only one game out of 10. Not to take anything away from the Bulldogs' performance, which was as impressive as it has been in years, but the fact remains that Hampton went onto the field wanting this game much, much more than Cloudland did.
  No amount of practice, no amount of drills and no amount of coaching can break that. Only the players can will themselves into a winning situation, because the effort and talent is there to take advantage of.
  Cloudland will have an opportunity to take out their anger on Sullivan East this Thursday in Blountville, and they can succeed if they go into the game with a winning mindset that is typical of 'Lander football.