Major mismatch pits Cloudland vs. Jellico

By Wes Holtsclaw
What happens when you pit the state's highest scoring squad and one of the state's lowest scoring squads?
That's a question that will be answered this Friday night in Jellico when the Cloudland Highlanders make the long trip up to the Kentucky border to face the host Blue Devils in their second Watauga Valley Conference battle of the season.
The Blue Devils (0-6) are coming off a 49-6 loss to Coalfield, where they scored their first points since zero week when they lost 42-13 to Scott County.
It begins a four-game road stretch for the 'Landers, with trips to Cosby, Unaka and Appalachia, Va. before they return home to close out the year.
"I don't think its that big of a deal," said Cloudland coach Mike Lunsford. "Especially if you're playing a team and you are familiar with the surroundings. Going to Appalachia will pose a different set of problems, but Jellico's a long trip and we know how to go there and get back so it's not that big of a deal."
Not much is known about the Blue Devil squad, except they run a new single-wing set in offense, which is something Cloudland hasn't seen this year.
"They've been running the single wing some and that's something we've never seen, and it did give Coalfield some trouble early, (Coalfield) Coach Kreist said," added Lunsford. "They've got all those fakes in the backfield, but I think they're down some from what they've been."
The 'Landers are averaging 52.4 points a game offensively, giving up an average of 13.2.
"We've done some things really well," the coach said. "There are parts of the game we could improve on and there's never anything that's perfect. I've been pleased with the fact that we've been able to run a lot of counters and traps like we have when we had some other good teams.
"The line's playing better than it did last year and its getting better each week. I've been pleased with that."
Something that's helped the 'Landers this year is that they are multi-dimensional offensively, rather than a straight-up run game as many have seen in the past.
"We're throwing the ball a lot better and I think we're on pace to have a quarterback throw for over 1,000 yards and two run for over 1,000. That's pretty good." Lunsford said. "Our fullback, Jonah Horney, is come along and really played a lot better lately."
The opportunity will be there for many of the younger players to see plenty of action in Friday night's game.
Back-up quarterback and starting wide receiver Toby King welcomes the opportunity to take a few additional snaps behind Mark Byrd.
"I love playing anyways, it's fun," King said. "(Coach Lunsford) wants the varsity to be out early so he can put the younger people in to get a lot of experience. It's helped me a lot, because at receiver, you've got to find an open spot and at quarterback, it helps you a lot to know when to throw it."
Of course, the key for the starting units early will be the play of the offensive and defensive line which has been successful thus far in the season.
"Me and Bus and some of the other boys ran laps during the summer and did extra work before the season, trying to lift weights every day. We can get a lot better though," said senior lineman Jake Gibbs. "We're doing okay defensively, but for some reason they're still getting yards on us. I don't know what to do, but we'll try."
The 'Landers will leave Roan Mountain at 12 p.m. for the 7:30 contest. According to Lunsford, the game is nothing to nothing and there's a lot more work to be done.
"The one thing I've learned about football is the best team don't always win the game," he said. "You've got to go down there and play your best and hopefully everything will take care of itself. If you don't do that, you put yourself in a mess."