'Landers rout Eagles
By Rebecca Pierson
Asst. Sports Editor
The Cloudland Highlanders put away another Mountain East Conference foe Friday night at Orr Field when they shut out the Cosby Eagles in a 40-0 affair.
With this win, the Mountain East Championship will now be decided on Orr Field this Friday when the undefeated Unaka Rangers will make the trip up Roan Mountain.
"We had a really good game," running back B.J. Johnson said. "I thought we did really well. On defense, we executed well.
"We are going to be ready for Unaka on Friday. It's going to be a heck of a game. It feels kind of awkward [playing the ranked team instead of being the ranked team]. We have been preparing for Unaka and I think we can do it. I think we can beat them."
Cosby opened up the game with its best run of the night when it inched 50 yards on a 15-play drive, but lost it on a fourth-and-7 at the 'Lander 24.
"I have some younger guys that are trying hard," Cosby head coach Darrell Miller said. "We are just not physical enough. I have said it all year, we have got to get stronger in the offseason. We're not and it shows. Our guys know it.
"We were well prepared as far as a coaching staff as to what they ran. We knew what they were doing. When you know what is coming at you, and you still get beat, you just got beat. They just beat us. We just have to work harder in the offseason."
Cloudland (3-0, 3-4) took over on downs and eight plays later landed in the end zone with Cody Jones on a one-yard dash. Quarterback Toby King found Nick Winchester in the end zone for the extra two.
The 'Lander defense strengthened up after the first drive and prevented the Eagles from reaching a first down. They took the ball back on their own 24, and Johnson found the end zone on a 14-yard run with five minutes left in the second. The pass for the extra points was incomplete, and left the 'Landers with a 14-0 lead.
Cosby took the ball back on their 34, but on third and two, Eagles quarterback Levi Cooper was intercepted by Jordan Buck, who ran in for 17 yards to take the first down at the 18. It didn't take much offensive effort to find the end zone again, but the PAT was no good and it left the Eagles down 20 with 1:41 left in the second quarter.
Again, reaching for the first down was difficult for the Eagles, and the 'Landers took the ball back at the Cosby 48.
From there Bobby Dugger received a pass from King and ran down for a 48-yard touchdown. Again, the PAT was no good, but the 'Landers with a 26-point advantage over the Eagles at the half.
"It felt good," Dugger said. "That was my first one all year. We are going to practice real hard this week and hopefully come out with the win. We're just doing what we do, play hard and do the best we can."
Cloudland can out of the half just as dominate as in the first. Jonah Horney would lead this drive nearly by himself with 13 yards on his first run and seven on his second. Then, at third and three, Horney would have a 25-yard touchdown run.
King ran in the extra points himself for a 34-0 lead.
The Eagles showed more movement on their next drive, but quarterback Kelvin Rone served Jordan Buck his second interception of the night.
King then made a pass to Jonathan "Possum" Pritchard for a 36-yard play for the first and goal. Then Pritchard took the pass from King for an eight-yard touchdown. The extra kick was no good, and it left the 'Landers with a 40-0 ball game.
"It feels good," Pritchard said. "I am just glad we get to play Unaka [for the championship]. I have heard they are good. They are ranked ninth in the state. I am just really glad we will get to be on the field with them. To get to play a team that is ranked ninth, you don't really get to see that. Especially in a conference like single A. I am just glad we get to play with them.
"I am happy we won this game for the coaches, the fans and my teammates, especially the seniors because it's the last year they get to play. It's different this year, a lot different. I am really glad that we won tonight but we have to step up on defense more. We did some stupid stuff on defense."
Everything that the Highlanders have worked for this season has built up to the Unaka match up for the championship. And Cloudland has definitely taken some bumps and bruises along the way, but the championship has been in the back of the players' minds, even with the hard losses they have taken. Now, they have one final week to prepare for it.
"Any victory is a good victory," Cloudland head coach Gary Keith said. "It has been very hard since the second week to convince this bunch that we had to win all of these conference games. They have been chomping at it bit by bit to get the opportunity to play Unaka. I hope a lot of people come out and support us. I think they will.
"Unaka has a good ball team. I am not taking anything away from them. I have never denied that. Unaka has a lot of speed -- they have a lot of different weapons. They have that Guinn kid and it's not just him either. They have a good quarterback. Hurley is a good ball player too.
"They are just a good, well-rounded ball team. They will get after you. McInturff is as good as a receiver as you will find around here in single A or AA. I've seen him. It will be a challenge."