'Landers face one last hurdle to Murfreesboro

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   With the season of Thanksgiving upon us, a new hope is alive on Roan Mountain, and although we are all thankful for what we have been given. We all want just one more round.
   This Friday, the Cloudland Highlanders will play in their first ever, state semi-final matchup against the Pirates of South Pittsburgh.
   The first three rounds of the TSSAA state playoffs have been easy sailing, with the 'Landers beating their three early round opponents by an average of 32.6 points, but this week brings a new set of challenges, for coach Mike Lunsford and his staff.
   The most frightening of which has already arrived. All week the 'Landers have struggled with illness on the team, and key players have missed practice due to the sickness.
   "We're in a pretty rough situation," said Lunsford of his team's problems, "We need to get well soon."
   'Lander fans are hoping that the thanksgiving turkey will be just what the doctor ordered, in preparation for Friday's matchup, because South Pittsburgh will undoubtedly be the best team Cloudland has faced in the playoffs thus far.
   Pirate tailback A.J. Jones is the key man for South Pitt, his speed and agility will be a big focus of the 'Lander defense as they look to shut down the Pirates power offense.
   Preparation may not be as intense as some other clubs the 'Landers have played this season, due to the straight-forward style that the Pirates will bring to Orr Field.
   Smashmouth, power football will be showcased from both sides of the field Friday night, as both the Pirates, and the 'Landers will be looking shove it down one other's gullet.
   Lunsford seems confident that both teams will be able to move the ball, the key will be stopping the run, "They've got some big kids, and good size as well," said Lunsford "They are very good defensively as well, I'm impressed with them."
   Looking back at the season's for both these squads, many tangents can be draw between the two teams. Although going 6-4, the Pirates have played some solid competition this season, with 3 of their 4 losses coming against schools twice their size.
   Boyd-Buchanan defeated them in week eight, but the Pirates went on to defeat Gordonsville last week. Gordonsville defeated Buchanan the week previous, all this points to the fact that football is all about matchups, and this game should be a great one.
   Both teams are coming off convincing wins over solid opponents, both teams are strong and physical, with good speed in the backfield, and both teams are solid defensively, especially against the run.
   Friday night it's going to come down to who wants it more. With all the adversity this week in practice, the 'Landers have a tough hill to climb indeed; however Roan Mountain isn't exactly an easy hill to conquer.
   The Pirates will have their work cut out for them as well, but look for the crowd, and home field advantage to play a large role in the contest, especially with lingering sickness amongst the ballplayers.
   Championship ballteams must find a way to overcome adversity and hardships. With only one hurdle left to clear, the 'Landers have the finish in sight. Friday night will be another test, a test that the Highlanders look to pass with flying colors.
   I hear Murfeesboro is really nice this time of year, I sure would like to visit there sometime... sometime soon.
   Good luck 'Landers.
llied in the later half of the first period with strong pressure defensively, and converting on Seahawk turnovers to take a 21-15 first quarter lead.
   Both clubs battled hard in the second quarter, as the Seahawks continued to shoot the ball well from the perimiter, meanwhile the Landers were tearing it up inside.
   A decisive advantage fell to the Highlanders in the post, as they rebounded well, and picked up a good deal of second chance opportunities, thanks to the play of Robby Tolley and Ricky Whitehead.
   The third quarter saw a big slow down in tempo, as both squads picked up the effort on the defensive end of the floor. The Seahawks pulled even with the 'Landers with 1:09 left in the 3rd quarter at 40 a piece.
   The fourth quarter turned into a real barnburner. Both teams caught fire scoring a total fo 53 points in the final period, with the lead changing hands three times before Craig Cook hit four consecutive free throws to ice the contest despite a pair of late threes by Jessee.
   Boys head coach Ned Smith was happy with his club's enthusiasim after the game, but as he pointed out it lead to some problems as well, "Our kids came out with enthusiasim," said Smith "But we were not patient enough at times. We have to work on getting it inside more too."
   The victories by both teams helps to get the Landers off to a great start, and the boys have even more to look forward to after football season, as they will get a good group of B-Ballers when the playoff chase is finally over.
   But something tells me those Lander faithful are willing to wait a couple of weeks for that.