Highlanders shell Unaka

By Travis Brown

   Unlike public address announcer Scott Morgan, the Highlander offense did not stutter as they put 42 points on the board en route to a 48-0 victory over the Unaka Rangers.
   On a memorable senior night, 'Lander quarterback Mark Byrd captured the state rushing record by a quarterback with a 155-yard performance. The Highlanders also congratulated tailback Dakota Benfield as last week he eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
   As for the game, only one legitimate half of football was played as the issue was no longer in doubt by halftime. An offensive barrage in the first half left Cloudland leading 42-0 at the break.
   On the first play of the game, Unaka fullback Joey Parlier broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season with a 4-yard plunge up the middle.
   From that point on it was rough going for the Rangers as their offense was held to just five first downs on the evening while Parlier reached exactly 100 yards rushing on the night.
   Despite the lack of success, Unaka skipper Mike Ensor said: "I'm proud of our kids, they played hard."
   The 'Landers took the lead on a pair of rushing touchdowns by Byrd as he took runs of 10 and eight yards into the end zone for the early 14-0 lead.
   Dustin Sluder would put the Highlanders on the scoreboard again soon after with a 48-yard end-around. The two-point conversion failed and the 'Landers lead 20-0.
   Benfield would add another touchdown to put the game nearly out of reach before the end of the first quarter.
   The second quarter would be more of the same as the 'Lander defense effort continually provided good field position while the offense flashed the firepower.
   Byrd broke the record on a 61-yard scamper, then on the next play Derrick Birchfield took the ball in from one yard out.
   Byrd then led a drive through the air, going 5-of-5 until hitting Bebo Hughes on a three-yard slant for the touchdown. From there on the 'Landers sent in some reserves and called off the dogs to some extent.
   They would add another touchdown in the second half to arrive at the final tally.
   The game marked the beginning of two different journeys for these football teams. For the 'Landers, it's on to the postseason and hopes of returning to 1-A's finest stage.
   Meanwhile the Rangers are improving and hope to stun the detractors next season,.
   "They (Cloudland) make a commitment to the weight room," Ensor said. "We have to make that commitment to football on Stoney Creek this off-season."
   Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford was pleased with the victory, and happy for the accolades received by his backfield tandem.
   "This is a team record," Lunsford said of Byrd's accomplishment. "Simply outstanding."