'Landers thrash Indians, 46-6

By Wes Holtsclaw

     Be careful what you wish for.
     After a 44-24 contest earlier in the season at Speedwell, Powell Valley head coach DeLynn Cline told Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford that his team would see the Highlanders again in the playoffs.
     The only difference? This past Friday night, Cloudland came out ready to 'lay the smackdown' on the Powell Valley Indians.
     After an awesome performance from their defense, the 'Landers sent the tribe back home with a 46-6 thrashing on Orr Field to set up a quarterfinal rematch on the road at Greenback.
     "The score wasn't the important thing tonight," said Cloudland coach Mike Lunsford. "The important thing was that we played better. They are a good team, but we played a heck of a defensive game.
     "We executed the best offensively and defensively. I've gotta give Coach (Darrell) Brewer credit, he did a heck of a job and we took their stuff away from them."
     Cloudland gave up 56 passing yards through the air, all coming in the first half. In the second half, The Highlander secondary batted down six balls, and pulled away with two picks.
     "I think that the state title game last year messed us in the secondary," said Brewer. "These past two weeks we've focused on getting back to Highlander defense."
     Cloudland moved Mark Byrd to corner to tie up Powell Valley's top receiver Rusty Loza.
     "He did a pretty good job on him," Brewer said. "We sent him there to take that weapon out of the game."
     Cloudland's defense put the pressure on Powell Valley quarterback Corey Russell as well, coming up with ten sacks on the night.
     The Highlanders won the toss to open the contest, and immediately put their offense in high gear. Dakota Benfield drove three good runs on the Indians, before Mark Byrd scampered 42 yards to put Cloudland in scoring range.
     Derrick Birchfield put Cloudland on top with a 1-yard plunge; however, a failed run attempt by Byrd stalled Cloudland at 6-0.
     On the ensuing kickoff, Mark Barnett drilled the football deep, where it was bobbled by Rusty Loza, who downed it at the five. An illegal movement penalty by the Indians put Powell Valley on the two-yard line.
     Cloudland's defense stepped up with two straight sacks, including a piledriver from Barnett, Dane Christman, and Dale Baker to force a safety in front of the Dog Pound.
     After a short kick from Trevor Hester, the Highlanders took some big runs from Jason Birchfield, Barnett, and Benfield to set up a quick one-yard leap for the score. Another failed conversion put Cloudland at bay with a 14-0 lead.
     Powell Valley attempted the run during their next possession, but two short gains and a big sack from Nathaniel Baker forced a punt near the end of the second quarter.
     Cloudland busted into the quarter with an 18-yard pass from Byrd to Benfield to pick up a critical first down on a fourth. Derrick Birchfield and Byrd set up Mark Barnett, who easily drove in for the one-yard score. A conversion pass from Byrd to Nathaniel Baker put Cloudland up 22-0.
     The tribe roared right back behind the tough throwing arm of Corey Russell. Powell Valley picked up some big gains with a pass of 43 yards to Caleb Medley, and a ten-yarder to Marvin Moyers.
     Some nice runs from Moyers and Bradley Pearman set up a 3-yard touchdown from Tyler Francisco to put the Indians right back into the contest. A missed PAT cut the Cloudland lead at 22-6.
     Two short possessions from both squads put the ball back into the hands of the 'Landers. Dustin Sluder took a nice 38-yard reverse to set up two nice runs, including an eight-yard touchdown by Mark Byrd. A pass conversion to Benfield put Cloudland up 30-6 going into the half.
     Cloudland opened up the second half with two great plays in the secondary.
     The Indians took the kickoff to begin the third quarter; however, on the second play from scrimmage, Russell tossed an interception to Derrick Birchfield.
     The Highlanders couldn't capitalize, thus were forced to punt back to the Indians. Lightning struck again on their second play, as Russell threw it up to Rusty Loza.
     But Mark Byrd cut in and took the football, stumbled forward to his hand, then stood up and cut right picking up 58 yards and the score for Cloudland. Benfield hurdled for a conversion to give the Highlanders a 38-6 lead.
     The blue and gold machine took their momentum onto the defensive side of the ball with two straight sacks from Dale Baker, Jason Grant, and Gregory Birchfield. Three straight incomplete passes, and a nice defensive stop by Dane Christman forced the Indians to punt.
     Cloudland took the ball, and gave it to Mark Barnett who sped 40-yards with a big run. It was called back, but it didn't stop the Highlanders.
     Barnett took three runs of 8, 24, and 2 with the help of a 16-yarder from Byrd to set up a one-yard score for himself. A Byrd conversion gave Cloudland a 46-6 lead.
     Indian quarterback Corey Russell was hurt on the next drive for Powell Valley, taking out a legitimate passing attack. The 'Landers continued their defense and held on to the win.
     It was a sweet victory for Barnett, who piled up 14 tackles with his two scores.
     "We just gave it all we had and went at it," he said. "We played hard-nosed Highlander football, and that's all you can say."
     "We played a lot better this week," said Derrick Birchfield, "We gave a hundred percent the entire game. Now we've got to get keyed in on Greenback and get ready for next week."
     Nathaniel Baker had 12 tackles and a pair of sacks for the Highlanders, while Gregory Birchfield added 10 tackles for the squad. Pearman and Moyers had ten tackles a piece for Powell Valley.
     "It feels pretty good to get out of here with a win," said Greg Birchfield. "We didn't play real well against them in the last game. Tonight, we came together real well. We've still got a long ways to go, and we've got to have a good week of practice to play with Greenback."
     Cloudland gave up 14 yards rushing in the contest, which served as a testament to the performance from their defensive line.
     "We played good out there tonight," said lineman Jeremy Ward. "We really stepped up as a team, hopefully we'll do the same next week."
     Mark Byrd led the Highlanders with 112 yards on ten carries, and with his big interception helped his team move forward in the bracket.
     "It feels good to come out here and win after a good week of practice," he said, "The coaches pushed us all week. The line, Mark Barnett, and Jason Birchfield all blocked good. The defense was awesome tonight."
     The loss was the last football game in the history of Powell Valley High School, as the Indians will combine to make the new Cumberland Gap High School.
     The 'Landers will have to travel to face the unbeaten Cherokees of Greenback (12-0) next week in Blount County. Greenback beat Oneida 25-9, to set up a rematch of last year's second round where Cloudland won 60-21.
     Greenback's sophomore quarterback Austin James enters the contest with over 2,200 yards passing.
     "It's going to be rough going down there and trying to play," said Byrd. "Hopefully, we'll come out and do well."