Highlanders keep rolling

Photo By Kristen Luther
Cloudland tailback Cody Jones tunnels through the Applachia defense.

By Jeff Birchfield

  In a battle of tradition-rich football programs, Cloudland defeated Appalachia (Va.) 24-12 behind a superb effort by running back Cody Jones.
  Jones carried the ball 27 times for 176 yards and three touchdowns in the Highlander win.
  "I had real good blocking and everybody stepped up after the injuries on our team," said Jones. "We were just needing people to run the ball, but it was our linemen that did a real good job."
  While Jones may have been modest about his effort, it is an understatement to say head coach Gary Keith was pleased with No. 28.
  "Cody Jones ran the best he has run in his career," said Keith. "I've been waiting for him to have that game. He did an outstanding job and the line was blocking their butts off."
  Playing through a scoreless first quarter, the Bulldogs from Southwest Virginia got on the board first. A 12-yard run by quarterback Cody Richardson, set up a one-yard plunge by fullback Brett Leedy for a 6-0 Appalachia lead.
  Cloudland responded immediately, with Jones carrying the ball for five of seven plays. He broke two tackles on a game-tying 28-yard touchdown run barely two and a half minutes after the Bulldogs had scored.
  Appalachia was driving on the next series until an interception by senior defensive back Bobby Dugger.
  With the ball on their own eight and a little over four minutes on the clock, Cloudland quarterback Toby King took command of the field.
  King completed two long pass plays, a 41-yarder to Jordan Buck and a 33-yarder to Jonah Horney that put the 'Landers in scoring position.
  With time winding down and the 'Landers facing third down, King juggled a high snap and brought it in before making a 12-yard dash to paydirt.
  "Toby did a great job scoring down there, he made me look like a genius," said a smiling Keith.
  After the kickoff, Appalachia stunned the home crowd when Richardson hooked up with back Andrew Leonard on a 63-yard touchdown throw to end the half tied at 12-12.
  "It was close, they had a real good team," said King. "We played hard. We just stepped up and played defense in the second half and the line started blocking good."
  Buck opened the second half with a 32-yard kick return. The 'Landers then ground out an 11-play, 62-yard drive of all rushing plays. The final two runs saw Jones dash 25-yards to the left side before diving into the end zone from the one at the 6:47 mark.
  On Senior Night at Roan Mountain, senior lineman Jimmy Johnson killed the next Bulldog drive with a key sack on Richardson.
  "It felt good to win on Senior Night," said Johnson. "When we are gone, we will miss playing here.
  "I just tried a lot harder in the second half. We went in the fieldhouse and made some adjustments. We did a better job and came out on top."
  With the ball back in their possession, the Highlanders put the pigskin in the hands of Jones. He ran a third touchdown, this one for 21 yards with nine minutes left in the ballgame.
  Two final scoring attempts by the Bulldogs ended with interceptions by Buck and King.
  "I was so proud of the kids," said Keith. "We had three starters who were out and the kids who replaced them stepped up.
  "At halftime, Jonah Horney turned his ankle and John Harrison was sick. We were reaching for bodies. But, the kids came out in the second half and put together two beautiful drives on a good football team."
  The Highlanders rushed for a total of 242 yards versus 136 for the Bulldogs. The total offensive numbers were almost equal thanks to 175 yards through the air by Richardson.
  "Both teams played hard," said Appalachia head coach Tom Turner. "They executed the whole ballgame, where we did it a couple of quarters. Cloudland did a good job controlling the ball.
  "We didn't do a lot to slow them down. We had a couple of bad series in the second half and when you aren't slowing them down, you can't have a bad series."
  With the win, Cloudland improved to 5-4 on the year before finishing the regular season next week at J.J. Kelly in Lebanon, Virginia.
  Appalachia fell to 3-6 and will have the week off before taking on Powell Valley (Va.) in its season finale.