Jr. 'Landers hurdle HV for 14-0 win

Photo By Kristen Luther
Cloudland tailback Josh Dugger runs the sweep.

By Marvin Birchfield
The Cloudland Jr. Highlanders built steam and wore down Happy Valley in the second half to post a 14-0 Little Watauga Conference victory at Warrior Hill on Tuesday night.
After a scoreless first half, the 'Landers put the load on their strong horse Michael Lunsford, who scored two touchdowns and rushed for over 120 yards.
"Michael ran really hard toward the end, but my line did a great job of blocking, and my blocking backs "Billy Markham" and "Mike Austin" did a great job," said Cloudland coach Robbie Turbyfill.
The Warriors started off with a good drive on their first series of offense with an 11-yard gain on a quarterback keeper by Tyler Blevins, and a 12-yard sweep by Garrett Dykes.
Happy Valley was able to move inside of Cloudland's five yard-line, but on a third-and-goal play Blevins was picked off by Lunsford to stop the scoring drive.
Cloudland went on the move with its first series, when Josh Dugger made a first down on the opening run and Lunsford rambled for 24 yards on the quarterback keep.
The 'Landers attempted a fourth-and-three, but the up-back Billy Markham was knocked for a loss by Jordan Oliver.
Happy Valley was unable to make a first down after its first possession for the remainder of the half.
"Cloudland did a good job defensively of adjusting, and I thought the staff did a good job of bringing us out to do well, but we just kind of bogged down there as the game went on," said Happy Valley coach Alex Payne.
The Cloudland defense was smothering the Warrior ground game, and nothing on offense seemed to work for the Warriors, forcing them to punt on two different occasions.
"I've got a good linebacking core on defense, and I thought we played well. There were not many missed tackles," said Turbyfill. "A couple of times we let them outside of us, but we adjusted and did fine."
A drive by the 'Landers near the end of the half came to an end, when Cody McQueen made the pop on Lunsford facing a fourth down and three situation.
Both teams managed to keep the other one from scoring after having to defend inside their goal.
"Our defense has played well all year, but we've just put them in some negative situations. But kids are playing both ways and we just hope to keep on improving," said Payne.
Two punts were made after each team had the ball on their first series of offense in the second half, but on their next possession the 'Landers decided to put the ball in the hands of Lunsford.
A completed pass on a long third-and-10 play from Lunsford to Mike Austin moved Cloudland within inches of the first.
Lunsford ran for the first down on the keeper to continue the drive, and a hard 10-yard run, where tackles had to be broken, gave Cloudland the first score of the ball game.
"My line played an exceptional the second half. They moved the ball and hit like they should," said Turbyfill. "Lunsford did a good job of running the ball out of the backfield, and at filling in at quarterback."
Lunsford had mounted the drive and finished it off with the touchdown. He added the two-point conversion, giving Cloudland an 8-0 lead with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
On the next series of plays, Jesse Richardson matched the Warriors' biggest run of the night on an inside handoff that went for 12 yards.
This was all the offense that Happy Valley showed, as Austin came up to make a big hit on Dykes, forcing the Warriors into a third down and long, which eventually resulted into making the punt.
"Nobody deserves it more than Coach Turbyfill does. He's been under a tough situation in the past few years, and they pretty much outplayed us and coached us, so a lot of credit goes to he and his staff," said Payne.
Cloudland decided to move Nick Sluder to quarterback during the fourth period, and Lunsford to tailback, which turned out to be a positive decision.
"I thought he came in at quarterback and did a great job for us," said Turbyfill. "He had never played quarterback before, and we had to move Michael back to tailback, so he was great."
Nobody but Lunsford carried the ball on the 'Landers' last series of offense, as he carried the team down the field, capping off a 10-play, 54-yard drive for the score.
"All of my line -- Christian Montgomery, Brandon Winchester, Cody Fields, Jacob Barnett and Michael Shadduck -- did a great job," said Turbyfill. "Lunsford is a tough runner and no one person can bring down."