Jr. 'Landers too much for Unaka

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com
The Cloudland Jr. 'Landers were not about to show weakness with their offense on Tuesday, as they gained nearly 300 yards on the ground en route to a 28-14 Little Watauga win over Unaka.
Michael Lunsford led the way for Cloudland by carrying the ball 21 times for 161 yards, while Unaka counteracted with Jeff Wilson, who posted 130 yards on 17 rushing attempts.
"I think my eighth graders on the offensive line decided they were going to come out and play," said Cloudland coach Robbie Turbyfill. "Christian Montgomery, Brandon Winchester, Cody Fields, Jacob Barnett, Jonathan Webb, and Preston Forbes just absolutely controlled the line of scrimmage."
A deep opening kickoff from Wilson pinned the 'Landers inside their own 10-yard line, when Lunsford was unable to get free from the pursuing Ranger special teams.
Cloudland mounted an impressive eight play, 93-yard drive as Josh Dugger ran a 44-yard misdirection play to the right side for the game's first score.
"We've had some injuries and had to play people out of position, but give Cloudland credit. They ran it right at us and we couldn't bring them down," said Jr. Rangers coach Matt Wilson.
The 'Landers added the two-point conversion with a run from Lunsford to lead 8-0 with 5:07 left in the first period.
Unaka's first drive stalled when a fumble on fourth down and long gave the 'Landers the ball on their own 38-yard line.
The 'Landers marched it down the field with a nice 11-yard gain coming from Billy Markland, and a 10-yard carry by Lunsford to get inside the 20.
The same play that Cloudland scored on to start the game was again executed, with Dugger scampering to the right side for his second touchdown of the evening.
"We were limited in what we could do without having our quarterback, and I thought getting behind early in the game really hurt us more than anything else," said Wilson.
Cloudland led 14-0 with 7:25 left in the second, but the ensuing kickoff to Wilson at the 30-yard line turned into a 70-yard touchdown return.
The 'Landers took their third consecutive drive of the game, scoring before the first half would end.
"I thought the main key in the game was controlling the line of scrimmage, and our backs ran well, but without the line then the backs are not much," said Turbyfill.
Using Lunsford to chip away at the Ranger defense, another run from Dugger almost broke its way in for another score.
Mike Austin capped off the drive by receiving the last two carries and plowing across the goal from one yard out.
Unaka was driving right before the half ended, after Wilson faked a punt on fourth down and long reeling off a 21-yard gain.
A nice hit coming from Cody Fields on Shane Heaton dropped the runner for a four-yard loss, and a sack from the 'Lander defense on Chris Pierce ended the first half of play.
The Rangers turned the ball over on their second play from scrimmage to start the second half.
A fumbled snap from center allowed Lucas Clawson a chance to pounce on the loose ball at Cloudland's own 42.
"That's to be expected when you have to throw someone else in there, but my kids played hard and never quit, It would have been real easy (to quit) and they didn't," said Coach Wilson.
After a couple of nice gains from Lunsford, the 'Landers had their trouble with a snap from center, giving the ball back to Unaka, with Brandon Campbell making the recovery.
A couple of carries from fullback Mickey Campbell and a 42-yard burst through the line by Wilson drew the Rangers within a touchdown with 4:15 left in the third period.
"Our gameplan going in was to keep Wilson in check before he got going, and I thought we accomplished what we set out to do," said Turbyfill.
Cloudland came back to execute another time-consuming drive, going 65 yards in nine plays. Austin crossed the goal line for the second time of the contest, from two yards away.
Unaka made a rally attempt that consumed all the clock in the fourth quarter, after converting two fourth-down situations.
Wilson was stopped short of a first down at the 'Lander 13, giving the much important conference game to Cloudland, which has its sights set on a chance to play for the season-ending title.
"I'm proud of these eighth graders. They've been here for two or three years and have stuck it out, and I hope we just have the opportunity to have another game," said Turbyfill.