'Landers rev for Rebels

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   After moving past Cherokee, and polishing off Cosby, the Cloudland Highlanders now look forward to a contest with the Rebels of South Greene in a rematch of last season's premier contest.
   The Rebels of 2002 have lost some key people, most notably MVP quarterback Adam Hansel. However, head coach Mike Lunsford is looking for South Greene to be a tough game for his wounded 'Landers, who journey to Greene County for tonight's contest.
   "They are a good football team," Lunsford said. "They were banged up against Hampton and they always play tough."
   With some cause for concern, the Highlanders are certainly happy with the performance of backup QB Cole Gouge.
   Gouge was pushed into duty last week due to an injury to Mark Byrd and performed well against the Eagles. With Byrd doubtful for the matchup with the Rebels, Gouge may be expected to repeat his performance.
   "We are very fortunate to have a backup like Cole Gouge," Lunsford said. "He throws the ball well."
   Gouge had an opportunity to showcase that arm during the Cosby contest while the 'Landers experimented with the newfound passing attack. Adding new wrinkles this season, the Highlander coaching staff has tried to mix up the attack with a four-receiver look.
   As for this week, expect the 'Landers to display more of the same against a competitive Rebel squad. Despite last week's loss to Hampton, the Rebels will offer up a good deal of resistance to the Highlander offense.
   One key advantage may lie in the power game that Cloudland is renown for. Due to an across the board lack of size, the Rebels may be vulnerable to the 'Landers' vaunted power-I.
   That weakness remains to be seen however, as fullback Jeremy Sauceman and quarterback Adam Smith will offer up a talented backfield for the Highlander defense to stop.
   Defense will be a big focus for the Highlanders as last week they allowed some impressive runs from a not-so-impressive Eagle offensive unit.
   This week Lunsford and his staff will be looking to fix the defensive miscues and bring the full package to bear against the 2-A Rebels.
   Another big concern for the Highlanders continues to be the off the field injuries to Byrd. The junior QB was sidelined last week with a cyst in his stomach.
   The cyst was removed last Friday, but pain and doctors orders may keep the stellar runner from making a comeback this week. Perhaps Byrd's absence will be a non issue for the 'Landers.
   With the offensive line hitting on all cylinders and Gouge looking solid at the helm, the Highlanders may well be in good shape anyway.
   However the presence that Byrd brings to the game is not only measured in his statistical performance. The way the Rebel defense matches up against Cloudland will most likely be different if Byrd is not in the game.
   Teams that respect Byrd generally make themselves vulnerable up the middle in order to keep him contained. If the young signal caller is not in the lineup, running the ball north and south will be more difficult for the 'Landers to establish.
   The defensive side of the football will be the one to watch Friday for a number of reasons. For Cloudland the task is simple: play to the potential they are capable of.
   After last week's disappointment on defense, the 'Landers, who still managed to throw a shutout, will be looking to restore the domination that has prevailed the last two season.
   For South Greene the riddle is somewhat tougher to solve. Depending upon Byrd's availability, the Rebels will basically need two defensive philosophies against Cloudland.
   If Byrd is available for action, the Rebels will have a much tougher task at hand in stopping him.
   Should he be prevented from playing, the Rebels can commit more personnel to stopping the run up the middle. In the process, forcing Cloudland to throw the football.
   However it may be irrelevant if the four-wide passing attack is effective at all. The Rebels may be added to the list of teams that stood in the way of the 'Landers.