Stakes at their highest for 'Landers, Eagles

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   Murfreesboro is finally here, and the Cloudland Highlanders will take on the Ezell-Harding Eagles this Friday for the Class 1-A state championship.
   With anxiety running high, the 'Landers are mentally prepared for the upcoming contest with the Eagles, but it is no secret that it will be a tough battle.
   Skipper Mike Lunsford's gameplan certainly sounds like a recipe for success.
   "We can't stop ourselves, fumbles and penalties are going to be a big key," said Lunsford. "If we can control the football and not shoot ourselves in the foot, we'll be in the game."
   The touted 'Lander rushing attack will no doubt be the focus of the Eagle defensive unit. The key will be the 'Landers' ability to control the football, and most importantly keep that Eagle passing attack on the sidelines.
   Most teams have worried only about the Eagles and their ability to throw the football, but according to Lunsford, they are a good ground team as well.
   "They're good, they have a better running game than people give them credit for," said Lunsford "Position to position they are very talented, and we have to be mentally ready to win."
   Look for the Highlanders to remain patient throughout the contest, and despite the score at half-time, the 'Landers must continue to wear their opponents down. The fourth quarter has belonged to the 'Landers and with continued perseverance, they will do so Friday.
   It will certainly be a key for the Cloudland defenders to slow down the Eagles' two-pronged offensive. Look for some adjustments defensively in order to contain the Eagle air attack.
   These adjustments will be even more important for the 'Lander defensive line, which must keep pressure on the opposing QB while tranquilizing the underrated E.H. running game.
   Basically it comes down to the line of scrimmage, and Lunsford summed up his club's hopes by saying simply: "If we're going to win this game, we must win the line of scrimmage. We have to play intelligently and limit our mistakes in order to compete."
   It will most certainly take a well-rounded team effort in order for the 'Landers to be successful. The Killer B's will definitely be a huge factor for the 'Landers, especially on the defensive side of the football.
   "They will make us defend the whole field," Lunsford said. "Benfield, Byrd, Barnett and Birchfield must have a good game. We need them to play well."
   The Eagles will undoubtedly rely on quarterback J.P. Shelly for success in the upcoming game. His arm will be the key for both sides to focus on.
   It will be interesting if the 'Lander "competitive edge" will be enough to dispel the underdog image that Cloudland will play, but regardless of the outcome, it's going to be a war.
   Gametime is set for 3:30 p.m. central time in Murfreesboro.