Cloudland forces six turnovers in victory

By Wes Holtsclaw

   GREENBACK - The Cloudland Highlanders passed their first major test of the TSSAA 1-A Playoffs.
   Backed behind four interceptions and two fumble recoveries, the Highlander defense shut down the Greenback offense for the majority of the night en route to a 22-7 victory in the quarterfinals.
   Cole Gouge and Mark Byrd picked off two passes for Cloudland, while Byrd and Mark Barnett added fumble recoveries.
   "It was something Brewer and the coaches worked with us this week," said Byrd. "The coaches do great, they put us in a position to make more plays, so we just went out and did it."
   "It made me nervous going out there to play," said Gouge. "But I knew that I had to go out there and play as hard as I could. We worked all week on trying not to give up the big plays to them, and we did a pretty good job of shutting them down."
   Greenback quarterback Austin James was a mediocre 15-of-37 passing the football, thanks to tip-top execution by the Highlander secondary.
   "We had a good week of practice this week," said Cloudland defensive coordinator Darrell Brewer. "It took us all year to finally come together, and now we're peaking at the right time.
   "They played an extraordinary game. Cole stepped up big tonight, and we just made some big plays on the ball."
   Turnovers seemed to plague Greenback, who could never click offensively and turn the momentum with constant plays from the Highlanders.
   "All of the kids played really hard," said Greenback coach Bill Satterfield. "Some mistakes hurt us, but we battled all night long. After Cloudland came out and scored two on us, it would've been easy to fold it but we bounced back."
   "We played hard, but Cloudland is tough. They ran it right at us all night. It just took our kids some time to get settled."
   It was a tough contest for the sophomore quarterback James, as his four picks allowed Cloudland to take some time off of the clock.
   "We played our hearts out," said James. "We just came short. We had a good season. It's just tough to see it end."
   The Highlanders put a good amount of pressure on the quarterback, including three big sacks from Dale Baker. But Baker believes the Cloudland defense can still improve.
   "We still need to work a little harder," said Baker. "We've got a tough challenge this next week."
   The contest became very tight in the third quarter after a nice touchdown pass from the 'Kees. But a big 39-yard touchdown run of jukes and jives from Byrd put the game out of reach late.
   "The line did a good job of blocking," Byrd said. "(Mark) Barnett and (Dakota) Benfield just seemed to kick out a little bit and started dancing with them, I just came and split them up the middle."
   Cloudland will now face its biggest threat of the season in Chattanooga's Boyd-Buchanan.
   The private school has played one of the toughest schedules in 1-A this year, losing its only contest to Ezell-Harding earlier this season.
   The Buccaneers are led by Mr. Football nominee Will Healy, who set a list of Chattanooga passing records this past year. Boyd also has a sound rushing game behind William Nelson, as its balanced attack has been a handful for a lot of teams this year.
   Byrd knows that it will be a challenge on the road.
   "We've just got to continue to play good defense, and keep playing Highlander football."
   - The Cloudland/Boyd-Buchanan contest might not take place at Boyd-Buchanan after all this Friday night as it has been rumored that the game will take place at Finley Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga because of the poor field at the Boyd school.
   The stadium has a grass surface, and is a new modernized facility that seats over 20,000 people. As it is just a rumor, we will have conformation on this as soon as we hear something.
   - Cloudland lost their only previous game to Boyd-Buchanan in 1998 with a 38-22 loss in the first round.
   - It was Cloudland's first playoff win on the road at Greenback after losing the previous two in 1992 and 1994.