'Landers trying to get linemen in shape

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com
One thing that's hurt the Cloudland Highlanders entering the playoffs the past few seasons has been one thing.
Not private schools, but stamina.
Amidst the controversy of Friday night's game against Unaka, the one thing that has stuck out among many people has been: Why were Cloudland's starters in late in the game?
Sure, Mark Byrd took a punt the distance after Unaka's first series of the second half, then Dakota Benfield scored a 43-yarder on Cloudland's first series.
But the big issue around that has to be the linemen and going the distance.
Last year in the playoffs, Cloudland's varsity played the first half in its first two rounds of play. They didn't see much action in the second half and once they ran into Greenback during the quarterfinals, it was tough for them to keep their strength up the entire game.
Why was that? It was because they weren't use to playing the full 48 minutes on a weekly basis, and when they played Boyd-Buchanan in the semifinals, their bread and butter, the run game, was consistently failing because their line was getting beat off the ball.
This season, the starters have been taken out early and haven't really been tested deep into a game with the exception of battles against Sullivan East, Cherokee and Hampton.
While it is questionable why Cloudland would keep its linemen in during the third quarter against Unaka, it's for the simple reason of getting ready for the playoffs.
Cloudland is ranked No. 1 in the state for a reason, but the players have said all year that they are not number one unless they pull out a victory in the 15th game.
Should the Highlanders make the third round of the playoffs, they will need to be ready for the test that awaits them. At any given moment in the extra weeks, a team could push them down to the wire.
At that point, the 'Landers will need to suck it up. But they need to be conditioned for that chance.
Many people have bashed Cloudland this weekend because of the '"'county issue.'"' While I'm sure Cloudland has respect for Coach Mike Ensor and what he's done with the Unaka program, at this point the 'Landers are worried about representing not only their county, but the entire region once they hit the playoffs.
Out of each division of state play in Upper East Tennessee, Cloudland has the best chance to bring home a gold ball. It's greater than the 2001 season and even last year.
Question the coaches, question the situation, but understand why they do things. It's for the program and it's for the rewards at the end of the road.
--THE BEST--
Offensive Player: Lester Bailey, Elizabethton - gained 209 yards on the ground with four touchdowns in the 35-22 victory over Johnson County.
Defensive Player: Martin Winters, Hampton - in a rare start, recorded 11 tackles and an interception against Cumberland Gap.
Special Teams Player: Cody Walsh, Hampton - Returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown against Cumberland Gap.
Trench Performance: Cloudland Highlander line - paved the way for 373 yards of rushing against Unaka Friday night, allowing Mark Byrd and Dakota Benfield to have 100-yard rushing games.
Quote: Johnson County coach Mike Atwood (on Lester Bailey) - '"'Lester Bailey happened. We just couldn't stop him...He killed us.'"'
--GAMES OF THE WEEK--
(Overall Record 144-41, Last Week 16-4)
Cloudland at Appalachia, Va - The Highlanders face the defending Virginia Division 1 State Runner-Up in probably the most hostile territory they will see all season.
The town of Appalachia will come out in support of their Bulldogs despite a rebuilding season. Cloudland will have to bring their 'a-game' in order to stay undefeated. CLOUDLAND 32-14
Elizabethton at Sullivan Central - This is a very big game for the Cyclones, as they must pull out this victory to remain first in conference play since they defeated Tennessee High.
I look for the Cougars to play a tough game with motivation after failing to battle back against the Vikings last Friday. If the Cyclones enter this game overlooking Central, they will get beat. ELIZABETHTON 28-14
Chuckey Doak at Hampton- The Bulldogs could probably take their JV team and beat the Black Knights. Look for the stats sheet to be filled on this game. HAMPTON 37-8
Johnson County at Tennessee High - The Longhorns took a tough loss at the hands of Elizabethton and want to bounce back against the Vikings. However, Tennessee High has only lost two games all season and have rolled since their loss to Science Hill. TENNESSEE HIGH 36-13
Statewide Picks
Science Hill 16, Karns 8
Morristown West 42, Volunteer 13
Cherokee 18, Cocke County 15
Gatlinburg-Pittman 38, Cumberland Gap 12
Maryville 16, Knoxville Central 14
Greeneville 30, Morristown East 28
Knox Catholic 70, North Greene 0
South Greene 16, West Greene 10
Seymour 32, Sullivan North 11
Sullivan South 15, Sullivan East 14
CPA 36, DCA 9
MBA 44, MUS 22
Hillsboro 23, Hickman County 0
CBHS 18, McCallie 7
Adamsville 42, Perry County 40
Huntingdon 36, Union City 0
--BY THE NUMBERS--
(100-yard rushers of last Friday)
104 - Charles Guinn, Unaka
109 - Mark Byrd, Cloudland
111 - Tim Whaley, Happy Valley
112 - Tony Smith, Johnson County
144 - Dakota Benfield, Cloudland
209 - Lester Bailey, Elizabethton