'Landers pummel Jellico

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   Cloudland's third conference matchup of the season can be described by merely two words: track meet.
   The Highlander offense put on an impressive display of rushing in the first half, while the Jellico defense could not manage to slow the 'Landers down.
   In the end, Friday night's Region 1-A game turned into a slaughter as a 62-6 halftime lead translated into a 62-12 Cloudland blowout at Orr Field.
   After the game, 'Landers head coach Mike Lunsford searched for the words that summed up his team's effort.
   "We played well," Lunsford said. "We played hard."
   The explosive offensive showdown began on special teams for Cloudland (3-0, 7-0).
   The 'Landers' Jeremy Ward busted through the line and blocked a Blue Devil punt, and the ball was picked up by Derrick Birchfield. Twenty yards later the 'Landers were leading 6-0.
   After breaking the seal, the Highlanders would pour on the pressure. Dakota Benfield, Mark Byrd, Dustin Sluder,and Mark Barnett all added rushing touchdowns in the first quarter.
   That combined with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Byrd to Cole Gouge wrapped up the first period scoring at 42 points for the 'Landers.
   Jellico quarterback Josh Sharp hit senior Kevin Swafford for a 65-yard touchdown pass for the Devil's only score of the first half.
   Defensively the Highlanders completely destroyed the Blue Devil rushing attack and tailback Chris Morgan.
   The first half saw very little running room for the Jellico offense, so consequently they went to the air.
   All total the Devils (2-1, 2-4) attempted 21 passes in the contest, completing only seven for a respectable 126 yards. That would not be enough, however.
   The defensive backfield intimidated Jellico receivers, causing many dropped passes over the middle.
   In the process the 'Landers also managed to pull down four interceptions. Byrd took one of those picks and rambled 59 yards to the house.
   By halftime the issue was no longer in doubt, and Lunsford worked on the depth while getting some younger players in the game.
   The contest serves as yet another step on the road to postseason success. Shutting down a passing team is a big priority for the 'Landers defense.
   Although they allowed one long pass, and the Blue Devils dropped three more potential bombs, improvement is evident on the defensive side of the ball.
   Lunsford was pleased with the big win, but hopes his players will remain focused on getting better.
   "We can't begin to think we're too good," Lunsford said. "We have to keep improving. We played really well, but we must keep getting better."
   Offensively for the 'Landers, Mark Barnett collected his first 100-yard rushing game of the season with some impressive jaunts up the middle. Benfield added a 100-yard performance as well.
   This week will offer a chance to rest up for the 'Landers as they prepare for another big conference game in two weeks with the Powell Valley Indians.
   The big road game will mark the final true test on the 'Lander schedule in 1-A conference play.