Chiefs control 'Landers

By Rebecca Pierson
Asst. Sports Editor
rpierson@starhq.com

  ROGERSVILLE--The Cloudland Highlanders may have wished that Hurricane Ivan had made another swoop north. Instead, the Cherokee Chiefs swept through Red Valley like a hurricane, taking the win with them.
  "We are happy to get a win anytime we can get one," Cherokee head coach Mike Sivert said. "After a tough loss last week in the conference [against Greeneville], we had to get our shift right. We played hard tonight. We had two days of inservice so I haven't seen them in two days. That is unusual, of course, but I am proud of the way they came out and conducted business."
  The Chiefs came through and took 341 rushing yards and 44 passing yards and kept the 'Lander offense sandbagged.
  On Cherokee's first drive, Toby King took away a long pass from Dustin Coffey to put the 'Landers on their own 15. The Chiefs then gave them 10 yards on a facemask but they would end up 14 yards back from where they started from on fourth down.
  "We came out in the first quarter and gave them a fight," King said. "They had a lot of subs and a lot more people than we did."
  The Chiefs would then take the punt on their 33-yard-line and scored 10 plays later on a eight-yard run from Josh Wallace with 2:42 remaining in the first. Ryan Linkous was good for the extra point.
  Cloudland got the ball on its own 41 and had its best drive of the night. The 'Landers made it to the Chiefs' 26, but lost four when Casey Sivert sacked Nick WInchester on third and five. He took another hit by Mark Farmer on fourth-and-9 for a loss of nine.
  It took only a 10-play drive before the Chiefs got on the board a second time when Shawn Bunch made a run from the 11, but Linkous missed the PAT with 4:50 left in the half.
  Cloudland had an unsuccessful five-play drive before Jonathan 'Possum' Pritchard had to punt it back. The Chiefs had the ball on their own 45 when Dusty Sandefur ran wide open for 55 yards into the end zone, then accepted the pass from Coffey for the two point conversion. This left the score 21-0 at the half.
  In the second half, Cloudland went fourth-and-5 at its own 29 when Pritchard punted it back to the 50. Brian Milan brought it back 19 yards before Jonathan Webb tackled him at Cloudland's 31. Three plays later, the score was 28-0.
  "We knew they were tough," Cloudland lineman Luke Sparks said. "We came out the first half ready to play. I think in the second half, we started getting tired and making mental mistakes."
  With the clock at 11:54 in the fourth, Cherokee did it again for a 34-0 score.
  With 4:28 left in the fourth, the Chiefs fumbled the ball at the one-yard line and Cloudland advanced 33 yards before a fourth-and-1. Jordan Hughes would get caught back behind the line and took a loss of three to end any chance of a 'Lander score.
  "They were too quick," Cloudland head coach Gary Keith said of the Chiefs. "Whenever they wanted to stop us, they could get up there and they just shot down everybody. Too many athletes. Too big. At a school like this, their coach tells them, you lift weights or you don't play. When you have 1,100 students, you can do that.
  "I told these kids that this started in December when I brought them all in and told them they needed to get into the weight room. I told them we needed to get into the weight room and they didn't believe me. All summer long, I had two or three kids that were dedicated to lifting weights. We have to use this game to get us better for our conference."
  Sivert said: "Cloudland played with a lot of heart and desire like they have against us in the past four years. They have a lot of heart and I wish them the very best of everything. I am sure that they will do well in their conference. They play hard."
  The Highlanders now get to the grit of their schedule when they host Jellico, Cosby and Unaka to round out their conference play.
  "We have to win the next three," King said. "It will be tough but we can do it. Unaka's pretty good. It will be a tough one."
  Unaka is on its best-ever season and is currently 5-0 with one win already in the conference.
  "I don't blame them," Keith said about all of the excitement surrounding the great season at conference foe Unaka. "Everybody has got it up on Stoney Creek. I don't blame them a bit. They have a lot of good athletes too. They have a lot of good kids that I am not taking anything in the world away from. They will be tough for us to stop. We are looking forward to it."
  Said Sparks: "We just need to run and get in better shape so we can come out next week with another win. [The loss] has motivated us to work harder and get better for the games that really matter. This will help us later down in the road in the playoffs. The other teams had better not overlook us. We will be ready."
  Keith said: "We have three conference games at home. The first one is Jellico. They have to come to Cloudland. The conference championship comes through Roan Mountain."