'Landers look to avenge loss to Chiefs

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   The most anticipated date on the Cloudland football schedule this season just might be this Friday, as the 'Landers look to enact some vengeance against last year's only regular season loss to the Cherokee Chiefs.
   This week the #1 ranked team in 1-A will go on the road, but this time they will make a stop in Rogersville, as the 2002 campaign rolls on to greater heights.
   Last week's emergence of the passing attack, combined with improvement on the offensive front, has Cloudland fans excited about the prospects for this Friday.
   However skipper Mike Lunsford warns that despite falling to Volunteer last week, the Chiefs are a good football team, a surprising foe that will be tough to beat, "We're watching a lot of film," said Lunsford "They are a much better football team than the score indicated last week."
   Cherokee had a good deal of success last season, and this year are looking to continue those winning ways. Despite loosing some talent in the lineman and quarterback department, this year's club still has plenty of weapons to keep opposing defenses honest.
   "Their running backs are big and strong," said Lunsford "They have a big fullback too, if we don't hit him, he'll hit us.'
   Cherokee is still fundamentally a running football team, look for this contest to be a crash course in varied running styles. However this year Lunsford is committed to playing better against the Chiefs.
   "Last year their two interior tackles wiped us out," said Lunsford "If we cant block them, then we'll open it up.
   Lunsford is hoping that Mark Byrd, Dakota Benfield and the rest of the 'Lander rushing attack will be successful. Although the passing game has shown improvement, passing is nowhere near Lunsford's priority list, "Times that we've thrown the ball more, we've lost," said Lunsford "Its no secret were a running football team."
   "We win by playing physical football, so does Cherokee," said Lunsford "I'd feel comfortable running the ball.
   On the defensive side of the ball, Mark Barnett and his counterparts will be asked to step up and stop the Flexbone attack that the Chiefs will showcase.
   Last season's defensive woes against the Chiefs were not totally due to a lack of pass defense. The Highlanders were forced to gamble in order to stop the run, consequently the Chiefs exploited the man coverage for big plays.
   "We had to over commit and they were good enough to take advantage of us," said Lunsford "We have to be sound and stop the run in order to win.
   Defensively for the Chiefs, the first order will undoubtedly be stopping #10. Byrd was the main offensive weapon against Cherokee last season. His special teams play, combined with his scrambling hurt the Chiefs dearly last season.
   With improved speed and quickness, this year's Highlander lineup matches up more favorably with the 4-A Chiefs.
   No question... this game will be electric. Kickoff will be in Rogersville at 7:30.