'Landers annihilate Blue Devils, 79-0

By Wes Holtsclaw
JELLICO -- When you're up 52-0 with the starters on the bench, you can't tell the junior varsity and freshmen players not to score. Just ask Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford.
In a mismatched outing, the top-ranked Highlanders took out the varsity players halfway through the second quarter and inserted their reserves.
The squad made the most of their longest trip of the regular season, to Bill Humphries Stadium, with the youngsters earning their right to score 27 second-half points. In the end, the 'Landers had cranked out the most points by a school in county history for a 79-0 rout of the Jellico Blue Devils.
"They're down and they fought to the end," Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford said of Jellico. "They played hard and did what they could do; sometimes you're just outmanned."
"Our kids played hard, our JV played hard and you want whoever's in there to do the best they can do and that's all you can ask of them."
"We came out of it healthy," said Jellico head coach Ronnie Lasley. "We had kids hurting and our gameplan was to come out healthy. We're very young and we've got five seniors, three of them are hurt right now."
Statistically, Cloudland (6-0) was lead by some early scores from Dakota Benfield and Mark Byrd who racked up big numbers in the first half.
Benfield gained 146 yards on seven carries with three scores, while Byrd tallied 137 yards on three carries with three scores and a 66-yard punt return to pay dirt.
Byrd also had 84 yards through the air in the first half, 70 of which was taken by tight end Aaron Stocton.
"My hat's off to Cloudland, they look like the number one team in the state to me," Lasley said. "They've got so much speed, size and strength."
"They've got the total package and really to me, I thought it was an honor to watch Mark Byrd and Dakota Benfield run the ball tonight. They put on a show for our fans and we couldn't tackle them."
Cloudland put up four scores in the first quarter with Benfield making the march to pay dirt with runs of 5, 20 and 58. Byrd took his punt return the distance in the quarter to put Cloudland up 28-0.
Byrd took the torch from Benfield and ran wild on the Devils with three scoring runs of 55, 68 and 4 to give their squad a 52-0 tilt midway through the second quarter.
The big statistics of the night came defensively as Cloudland held Jellico to -24 yards rushing through the first half courtesy of outstanding defensive play from linebackers Dane Christman, Aaron Stocton and Jon Pritchard, with a little help from their line of Jake Gibbs, Zach Cook, Jeff Lunsford and Chris Sheets.
It looked like the same group in the second half, but the smaller reserve players did as well as the varsity on the Jellico squad.
At the beginning of the third, Dewayne Campbell and Brian Simmons set up Jon Harrison after runs with a 48-yard sprint down Hoyt Murphy Field.
A problem with the Cloudland team this season has been their kicking game. But tonight, without any practice, Cody Jones connected in the second half for the squad.
On the next Highlander possession, Campbell took the first play 69-yards to a score.
On the very next play from scrimmage, senior Clint Steiner made his first big play of the season, picking off Blue Devil quarterback Nick Clevenshire with a 48-yard touchdown to put Cloudland over the 70-point barrier for the first time in school history.
"I was in the right place at the right time and hauled it in," said Steiner.
The 'Landers made one final drive count after runs from Simmons and Jordan Buck, when Jones, the youngest brother of former Cloudland star athletes Brandon, Kevin and Kyle, ran a 53 yard blast to give Cloudland the 79-0 edge.
Defensively, the 'Landers allowed -1 yards of total offense behind a solid reserve crew of Buck, Jon Webb, Bill Johnson and Scott Steiner.
The team had a combined six sacks on the night and forced two fumbles. Pritchard led the squad with 16 tackles, while Christman came up with 11.
"Jellico's got a young team with a little experience," added Benfield. "We played exceptionally well in all aspects of the game and got the younger kids some work, which is good."
"Dakota and Dane did exceptionally well blocking tonight," said Byrd. "Jellico has a young team and in a couple of years their program could build up."
A problem with the Blue Devil team has been lack of depth at the quarterback position, as Clevenshie was positioned at tailback before Quarterback Stephen Barclay went down with an injury.
Jellico hopes to have him back before the North Greene game in two weeks.
"It took us out of our offense. We had no quarterback that could throw the ball," Lasley said. "Our offense has been at least a decent throwing attack. Right now, I have no one that can do it."
"Barclay should be back for North Greene and he's ready to come back next week," he said. "We've got an open date, so a week of shorts and helmet will help us a lot. It comes at a good time for us."
The game marks Cloudland's second shut-out of the season and pushes their state-leading scoring total at a 56.8 average per game.
The 'Landers hit the road again next week for a battle against the Cosby Eagles, who fell 46-20 against the Unaka Rangers Friday night.