Barnett good influence on 'Lander squad

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   This year's Cloudland Highlander football team has received leadership from many sources, but perhaps the most profound influence is the presence of senior Mark Barnett.
   The linebacker/fullback has paced both sides of the football and contributes in the kicking game to boot. His strong physical presence gives other teams problems on every snap of the football.
   Barnett has shown improvement since last season and head coach Mike Lunsford is hoping Barnett can carry more of the responsibility as the campaign trudges ahead.
   "He does what it takes for us to be a winning program," Lunsford said. "He's made us tough and he's the epitome of what we need to be."
   The list of accolades for this young man are impressive. However, the statistics and on-the-field accomplishments are not what stands out for this young player -- his character comes first.
   "Good character is something we are blessed with here at Cloudland," Lunsford said. "Barnett is one such young man, and he's a good student, too."
   On the defensive side of the ball, the 'Landers go as Barnett goes.
   "When he's played really well on defense, we play really well," Lunsford said.
   Barnett is hopeful that this season will take one step further than last year's effort, but he stresses there is still work to be done.
   "Everything we do is a team effort," Barnett said. "During the offseason we lifted weights and worked on our speed."
   Team chemistry and work ethic have long been the windows to success on Roan Mountain, this year's team is further proof that attitude can be just as effective as talent.
   "To be tough, you either have it or you don't," Barnett said. "We trust each other and it makes us stronger."
   As for the rest of the season, Barnett says that the work ethic must stay strong in order to make it back to Murfreesboro.
   "We have to keep up the hard work and dedication," Barnett said. "No slacking."
   Lunsford continued to comment on his stellar senior, focusing on toughness and his willingness to sacrifice for the team.
   "He's got toughness but he listens to what the coaches say," Lunsford said. "Sometimes kids who are hard-nosed are hard to coach, but he's coachable."
   With contributions on both sides of the ball and a wonderful attitude, Mark Barnett has proven to be a key ingredient for Highlander football.
   With the experiences of last season now a memory and this season's prospects still a dream, Barnett will no doubt have a large role to play in the upcoming postseason.