Rested 'Landers groom for important 1-A clash

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   With a week of rest now behind them, the Cloudland Highlanders are primed and ready to finish the regular season in dominant fashion.
   This week will see the unbeaten Highlanders (3-0, 7-0) hit the road to Powell Valley (3-0, 6-1) for a big conference showdown with the second-place Indians.
   The bye week has given head coach Mike Lunsford and his staff time to rest up in preparation for the conference tilt. Rest he feels has made them better.
   "At this point in the season I feel like being healthy is the most important goal," Lunsford said.
   With a healthy roster, Lunsford and his troops are ready to get back to football against the Indians this Friday. However, Lunsford has hinted that this week may see a different approach from the 'Landers.
   "Powell Valley will put a lot of people up front, they will try and force us to throw the ball," Lunsford said. "Weather permitting we will try some things offensively."
   The practice conditions this week have made the passing game a difficult aspect to work on, but Lunsford remains confident that his troops will perform.
   "It's not been a good week to work on throwing the ball," Lunsford said. "We'll be prepared to some degree."
   The split-back veer attack of Powell Valley will look strikingly familiar to 'Lander fans as it bears a strong resemblance the South Greene Rebels, offensive scheme.
   With good athletes at the quarterback position and a pair of talented ball catchers the Indians will attempt to stretch the field against the 'Landers.
   Defensively the 'Landers are much-improved, but will have to face a stronger offensive line than they faced against the Devils two weeks ago.
   The defensive secondary has shown much improvement over the past few weeks, as a reasonably dangerous Jellico team and a weakened Cherokee club were unable to throw for big yardage
   With the postseason rolling ever closer, Lunsford and his staff have taken a new approach to improving the team.
   With quickness and strength foremost on the minds of the coaching staff, the weight room has seen action during the season, a practice normally used only during the off-season.
   "Some of our practice time has been spent in the weight room," Lunsford said "Our quickness and strength needs to improve every week, so we've worked real hard on the weights."
   The enthusiastic attitude of the 'Lander players will be an added asset this Friday, as this contest will represent the last legitimate opponent in the conference.
   With a rematch with Hampton scheduled next week, and a regular-season finale slated with Unaka, the conference title will be decided this Friday in Speedwell.
   The postseason prospects for Cloudland will rest heavily on their performance this week, as homefield advantage in the playoffs conference bragging rights are on the line.
   Look for workhorse Dakota Benfield to see tougher yards this week, as Mark Byrd may be called upon to put the ball airborne to establish the offense.
   Despite the Indians defensive approach, and Lunsford's intentions on throwing the football, the power-I offense of Cloudland,will not be prevented from running the football.
   Bottom line, simply too much talent, and too much speed for the Indians to handle.