Tall order for Highlanders at Cherokee

By Rebecca Pierson
Asst. Sports Editor

  The Cloudland Highlanders (1-3) overcame a big hurdle last week during Hurricane Ivan when they got their first win of the season over the North Greene Huskies in a Watauga Valley Conference game.
  Friday night the team will travel to Rogersville for one of their toughest scheduled opponents in the Cherokee Chiefs, who stand 3-2 for the year.
  "They will probably be the best ball team we will see this year," Cloudland head coach Gary Keith said. "I saw them against South Greene and they can run the ball on the inside, they can run it outside, they can throw the ball and they can get the ball. They do all of that."
  Tailback B.J. Johnson was named the Associated Press 1A Prep Player of the Week for his outstanding 174-yards rushing and for scoring the only touchdown on a 16-yard run in a 8-0 victory in the pouring rain.
  "They didn't believe me when I told them they (the team) had to carry the load last week," Keith said. "They thought that [Jonah] Horney was playing. The first couple of times we had the ball against North Greene, we weren't watching it. They found out that they were going to have to do it and carry the load. From then on, when we had the ball, we were running it."
  "That helped out whole ball team," he said. "It made the other kids play harder. I thought that they did an excellent job."
  While the 'Landers are riding high in finally gaining a win, the Chiefs will guarantee a tough fight after they suffered a loss last week to Greeneville, 27-20. It had been erroneously reported to the STAR and other media outlets that the Chiefs had been victorious.
  The Chiefs had taken the early lead in the game after scoring on their second possession after a Greeneville fumble at the 10-yard line. They scored a second time in the second quarter when Austin Albright finished off an eight-play drive with an eight-yard touchdown run.
  They then picked up a fumble at their own 11, and Albright put the ball in from three-yards out for the score and then succeeded in the conversion, for a 20-13 lead. Then Greeneville came back late in the fourth for the final score to turn the tide on the Chiefs for the win.
  The Chiefs' main advantage is a roster that is twice the size of Cloudland's. Cherokee brought back five offensive starters and seven defensive starters.
  Albright (6-1, 210), Shawn Bunch (5-10, 195), Dustin Jordan (5-11, 210), Dusty Sandefur (6-0, 190), Mark Farmer (6-1, 185) and Brad Dotson (5-8, 165) will be rotating at tailback. Albright, Bunch and Jordan will also comprise of the core linebackers for a second season.
  On defense, Farmer and Ryan Linkous (5-11, 215) will be posted at the end. Casey Sivert (6-4, 235), Paul Reveles (5-8, 215), Josh Wallace (5-9, 220) and Steven White (5-11, 230) will be playing musical chairs at defensive tackle.
  Sandefur will be at his second year as strong safety and he posted the fastest times in preseason testing.
  Dustin Coffey (6-2, 210) will be at free safety and quarterback, but look for sophomore center Brian Milan (5-10, 185) to be in the QB position as well.
  Jake Anderson (6-3, 295) and Lance McAnally (6-0. 230) will return as starting center and guard, respectively. Receivers Eric Richardson (6-0, 178), Josh Ferrell (5-9, 160), Alex Unroe (5-10, 150) and Alex Ryans (6-0, 170) will also be a force to be reckoned with.
  Sivert returns as tight end while Steven Hall (5-11, 227), Cory Hawkins (5-10, 225) and Josh Williams (6-1, 215) will be vying for the other guard spot. Josh Scalf (6-1, 250), Greg Dennis (5-9, 285) and Brett Trent (5-8, 215) will by scrapping at the two offensive tackle positions. Linkous will be handling the footwork.
  Last year, the 'Landers put a hurting on the Chiefs in a 52-18 final. Cloudland had 507 total yards while Cherokee 475 yards. Penalties cost Cloudland 55 yards and they had 56 carries for 389 yards. Cherokee had 29 carries for 321 yards and had 87 passing yards. The 'Landers went 3-for-3 for 94 yards in the air.
  Horney had two touchdowns in last year's game, one for a five-yard run and another for a 20-yard run. Toby King also had some time in as QB last year, going 2-for-2 for 14 passing yards and went 1-for-2 yards rushing. King also had three tackles, Jonathan Pritchard had eight and Horney was good for seven tackles.
  Although the team hasn't had many followers to its away games, the 'Landers will be hosting three straight conference games and four straight home games following their trip to Rogersville tomorrow.
  "We have improved," Keith said. "We have improved every week. They improved against North Greene. Anytime you can get 300 yards in a game, you are doing something right. These games, like against Cherokee, will make us better.
  "I don't think that the kids have given up and I hope that people in the community haven't given up. They have really been working hard. "