'Landers look to stay on roll against Jellico

By Travis Brown

STAR STAFF
tbrown@starhq.com

   Coming off last week's convincing victory over the South Greene Rebels, the Cloudland Highlanders return home this week to face conference foe Jellico for Region 1-A bragging rights.
   Jellico offers up the most imposing conference threat so far this season, showcasing a strong passing attack with a host of weapons at receiver.
   However, stopping the Highlander offense may be an impossible task for the visiting Blue Devils, or any other 1-A opponent for that matter.
   Cloudland simply continues to pour on the offense. Last week the Highlanders posted 48 points on a respectable South Greene squad that narrowly fell to the 'Landers a year ago.
   This season has seen a backfield explosion indeed, and with the anticipated return of Mark Byrd to the lineup, Roan Mountain will be even tougher to climb for the Devils this Friday.
   Despite being the heavy favorite, Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford will take no chances against Jellico.
   "They have some good athletes with good speed and their quarterback is solid too," Lunsford said.
   A year ago the Blue Devils only rushed three times during the entire game against the 'Landers, attempting to beat Cloudland almost exclusively through the air.
   It did not work then, but chances are the Devils will try again with perhaps a bit more ground attack.
   "They have run the ball more this year," Lunsford said. "We're not sure what we will see on offense from them."
   With Cole Gouge likely returning to receiver, the senior playmaker will look to burn Jellico with some of its own medicine. However, running the football will no doubt be the focus for Cloudland Friday night.
   "Our blocking backs have been playing great," Lunsford said "Our tight ends have played well too, and it has helped our running game."
   With increased focus on solid blocking, the Highlanders have continued to impress as the season progresses. Perhaps a dose of the passing game will be utilized on Orr field as well this weekend.
   Cloudland's defensive secondary stands equipped with more defensive sets than the 'Landers have ever fielded. With a premium placed on pass defense this season, the 'Landers will expect some turnovers from the defensive backfield.
   With a good deal of man-to-man and cover 2 looks being readied for Jellico, Lunsford is banking on stopping the pass.
   "I think they will throw the ball," Lunsford said. "We will try to force them to run it, and then stop them."
   Dane Christman, Nathaniel Baker, Jason Birchfield and Mark Barnett have displayed a great deal of improvement in the blocking department. However, their contributions on defense have been overlooked.
   This group will be responsible for shutting down the Blue Devil running game, as well as pressuring the offensive backfield.
   Although the game has yet to be played, on paper it appears as if Cloudland is simply too much for Jellico. Kickoff is Friday night at Orr Field, 7:30 sharp.