Highlanders bomb Jellico
Asst. Sports Editor
The Cloudland Highlanders easily defeated the Jellico Blue Devils 50-6 in a Mountain East Conference game at Orr Field on Friday night.
The 'Landers were thrown a twist. The Blue Devils relied largely on the running game when historically their passing game has been their offensive strong point. That running game was no match for the Cloudland defensive line.
The Roan Mountain team totaled 60 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and held the Blue Devils to 242 offensive yards. The 'Landers totaled 409.
"I am ecstatic," said Cloudland head coach Gary Keith. "I told the guys to keep working and it would all come together. I am very proud of all of my kids. I thought all of them blocked well. That was a big game. [Jellico] wasn't a pip-squeak team like last year. They came out and hit us. They got after them. I can't wait to see the film.
"Whenever I walked out there onto the field to call the plays, they were begging, 'Run behind me. I'll get you a score.' That made me feel good. The JV kids came out and were running hard there too. Both of those last two scores were from JV scores.
"I am just tickled to death. I had a bunch of them that ran hard. They took some cheap shots and I am proud of them for not retaliating. We had a bunch of kids that got hit in the back."
The Highlanders found the end zone in their first drive when Jonah Horney went back into the mix after being sidelined in recent weeks with an injury.
Starting quarterback Toby King then found Nick Winchester in the end zone for the two-point conversion and a 8-0 lead.
On Jellico's first drive, it moved the ball 13 yards before turning it over on a fourth and seven. The 'Landers took it back at the 50 and four plays later, Horney found the paydirt again. King found B.J. Johnson in the end zone for the two-point conversion with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
"We just keep pounding the ball up the middle," said Horney, who rushed for 101 yards. "That is what we have always done and the line does a great job. Defense does an awesome job too."
The Blue Devils made a 20-yard advance into Cloudland territory in the second quarter before Jellico quarterback Aaron Causey fumbled. Luke Sparks recovered for Cloudland at their own 38.
Six plays later, the 'Landers scored again, this time when Jordan Buck made a 22-yard run into the end zone. King would elect to carry it himself for the extra two points and a 24-0 lead.
Jellico took back the ball on its 29 after a holding penalty. Three yards later, Dustin Morgan tried a fake on a fourth and 17 but Buck would make his second interception on the pass.
In the second half, the Blue Devils got behind on penalties and had to kick the ball back from their own 10-yard line. The 'Landers took back possession at the 49. B.J. Johnson would make an 11-yard run for the first down, and Buck would make a 37-yard run for the first and goal at Jellico's three-yard line.
B.J. Johnson finished the drive with three-yard sprint for a 30-0 lead.
"We just came out prepared for the playoffs," said Buck, who also had four tackles and rushed for 56 yards in addition to his early score and interception. "I think we will do pretty well next week. We're just going to work even harder in practice to get ready for them."
Pinning Jellico back deep in its own territory, Gary Buchanan and Jimmy Johnson made a fourth-down tackle to give Cloudland possession at Jellico's 14. Three plays later, the 'Landers scored to make it 36-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jellico receiver Corey Brown fumbled the ball and recovered it at the 12-yard line. Donnie Lay had a 13-yard run and a six-yard run for a second and four at Jellico's 32-yard line. Causey made the handoff to Taylor Mitchell who went 78 yards into the end zone, only to get pulled back after a holding penalty.
The Blue Devils only got to the 'Landers 47 before having to turn it over again. Mitchell would pick up an interception for the Blue Devils at the Jellico 14, but handed it back at the 35 eight plays later.
This is the point at which the game got exciting, or confusing, depending on who you ask. Cloudland has possession at Jellico's 39, but Hunter Perkins picked up the fumble for a Jellico first and 10 on the 31. Then Cloudland's Jon Harrison somehow made out with the handoff from Jellico's QB Causey and took it down five yards for a Cloudland first down on the 26.
Freshman Jordan Hughes then took over as quarterback and made the first play himself with an eight-yard run. Then, on second and two, he made a run for it again, this time missing a handful of tackles and zig-zagging wide across the field for the touchdown with 4:10 left in the game.
From there Cloudland attempted the PAT for the heck of it, but missed for a 42-0 lead.
Jellico's Brown then made an 80-yard return for the Blue Devils' first score with 3:51 left on the clock. The two-point conversion didn't work, and left a score of 42-6.
But the 'Landers weren't done yet. They scored again with Hughes leading the way with :51 left in the game, assisted by a 42-yard run from freshman Josh Dugger. Mickey Austin ran in for the extra two and the Highlanders' scoreboard resembled results of recent years.
"I think that was a great win," Hughes said after his two touchdowns, three tackles and 37 rushing yards. "We needed to get a little momentum to get us through the rest of the season and take home that conference championship."
This was the kind of boost the team needed after taking a bruising last week to Cherokee.
"We had a rough game last week," said Hughes. "We knew that this game really mattered because if we couldn't win it, we couldn't win the conference. The line blocked well, the backs ran hard. We didn't make very many mistakes like we had been. That is what helped us out to the win tonight.
"We have to take it one game at a time right now and we can't overlook Cosby and start looking at Unaka. Right now is the most important time of our season."
Added coach Keith, "Cosby is next on the list. We are going to work the snot out of them this week. I told them that we can not get lazy. 'No more losses.' That's out motto."
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