Jellico set to invade Orr Field
Asst. Sports Editor
The Cloudland Highlanders (1-4 overall, 1-0 conference) have the worst of their season behind them, and are now set on concentrating for yet another Mountain East conference championship.
While many may consider the team down and out after the string of success these past few seasons, the 'Landers are by no means laying down as they will face a string on conference matches at Orr Field in the next three weeks, beginning with the Jellico Blue Devils (1-5 overall, 1-0 conference) tonight.
"I told them we have to stop the big plays," Cloudland head coach Gary Keith said. "We have to make them into more of a running team because they like to throw the ball. We have to take that part of their offense away or at least slow them down.
"I am trying to prepare this team to where no matter what they run, we can score or play defense. I am more concerned with us. If we block and we tackle, then it doesn't matter what they run."
Jellico has taken a string of heavy losses to some tough teams just as Cloudland has. They took a loss to Scott Co., 44-0, a 60-0 loss to Williamsburg, Ky., a 56-0 loss to Coalfield, a 55-0 loss to Oneida and a 42-14 loss to Midway.
The Blue Devils' lone win came from conference foe Cosby, where they walked away with a 28-14 victory. While Jellico has been in the end zone more than the 'Landers, their defense as also been weaker, allowing their opponents 271 points thus far.
"The boys are taking it in stride," Jellico head coach Ronnie Lasley said. "The last few years Cloudland has dominated us, but I think this year may be a bit more even matched."
Blue Devil junior quarterback, Aaron Causey is a first-year transfer student from out of state.
"He is looking better and better each week," Lasley said.
Taylor Mitchell and Matt Hopson will be the go-to guys in Jellico's largely passing game.
"Those two have been pretty consistent week to week," Lasley said. "They are probably our two best runners."
In last year's game, Cloudland ran all over Jellico in a 79-0 win. The 'Landers had 547 yards in total offense while the Blue Devils went negative one yard in total offense. It is a given that Jellico should improve offensively.
"We are hoping for the same thing out of them as last year," 'Lander tight end Jonathan 'Possum' Pritchard said. "We are starting with a new line and this is only the second conference game. We beat North Greene, but we didn't beat them too bad."
"You never know," he said. "We might come out fired up and carrying the plays and the next minute we might not be able to. Jellico beat Cosby and I have heard that they do a lot of passing and stuff. Hopefully we will do good against them. You never know though. Jellico may have been lifting weights this summer and improved a lot."
The 'Lander team knows that they cannot lose this game and still maintain hopes of a conference championship. Although the team has taken some heavy losses this season, the guys sound like they are ready to rumble up on Orr Field.
"I am hoping that we beat them pretty good," lineman Jonathan Webb said. "We just need to come out fired up and ready to play. We will have to play our best on offense and defense."
And Coach Keith agrees. Last week against Cherokee the coach said that the conference championship will come out of Roan Mountain and with these next three conference games at home, that statement couldn't be any truer.
"Last year they threw the ball a lot," Keith said. "I expect them to throw it this time. They stay in the shotgun 60 percent of the time. They throw the ball 70 to 80 percent of the time. That is what I am expecting. They have one really good receiver and he is a big tall kid."
He went on to say: "When you come up against a team that throws the ball, the pass can be off the first down, they can be off the second down but they still have that third down to pick up 10 or 20 yards. That's the thing about a passing offense if you are good enough at it. In a big play, you can play excellent defense and make two mistakes and be down 14-0. Whereas a running team has to grind it down the field and get first downs and pass it once and a while like we do. You just can't make mistakes and not fumble."
The Highlanders are counting on not making mistakes, but they are also not expecting for Jellico to hand them another conference win on a silver platter.