Fourth-quarter rally lifts 'Landers
Cloudland overcomes muddy field, Indians



  WISE, Va. -- Cloudland Highlander assistant coach Gary Lewis called it "Mud Bowl 2004."
  "I have never seen a field that bad in my entire like," Cloudland head coach Gary Keith said. "I knew they were going to be fired up for us. This was probably their best chance to win. This was senior night on their field. We had to travel all this distance and I knew they would be ready for us. I am not taking anything away from J.J. Kelly. They have a lot of young kids. They were bigger than any team we have faced this year on the line. They were as big as Cherokee."
  The Cloudland Highlanders (5-0, 6-4) overcame the mud-soaked field to finish up their regular season with a win over the J.J. Kelly Indians (0-6, 0-9) in an 18-8 decision Friday night at Carroll Dale Stadium.
  "So far this year, we have had a hard time learning how to win games," Indians head coach B.I. Saylers said. "I don't want to get down on the kids because they gave us everything they've got. They played hard. We had the ball a few times in the second half inside their 20-yard line, and turned it over on downs. To beat teams, you have to be able to convert those things."
  "We just let them stay in the game instead of taking them out of it. Cloudland does a good job. They have a bunch of tough kids that play hard and want to win just like these kids here. Hopefully, we can come out next week and get us a win."
  The young Indian team started four freshmen and six sophomores.
  The mud pit gave the Highlanders a fit the first half. The Indians came out on the first drive on a nine-play drive for 30 yards, only to turn it over on a fourth-and-1 inside the Highlander 33.
  The 'Landers then advanced six yards, then had to punt on a fourth-and-4. The Indians advanced five yards on their next possession before having to punt it back.
  The 'Landers still couldn't advance in the muck, but Bobby Dugger recovered a fumble on the Indians' first play, and Jonah Horney went in for a 36-yard touchdown to put the 'Landers on the board first at the bottom of the first quarter.
  The Indians put themselves on the board with 1:53 left in the first half when Chris Mullins went in from nine yards out, and a pass from Indian quarterback C.J. Cantrell to Daniel Counts got J.J. Kelly the lead, 8-6, at the half.
  The Highlanders gave up their first two possessions of the second half, once on a fumble recovery by Chris Barger, and on an interception by Vernon Kerns.
  The Indians kept their lead until 8:22 in the fourth quarter when quarterback Toby King connected with Jonathan "Possum" Pritchard on a 17-yard scoring pass for a 12-8 Highlander edge.
  "It's like the Pudding Bowl," Pritchard said about the playing field. "We came out dead, really. The fourth quarter we just got pumped, pulled it out there and done it. I am glad we went 6-4, but I wish it was 10-0. But you can't have everything. We are going to work our butts off this week. We've got Oneida, and Oneida won't lay down on us. We have to go out there all four quarters and give it everything. They are good. They are real good."
  Jordan Hughes then got an interception with 5:40 left in the game, and the 'Landers burned up 45 yards in six plays to advance the lead to 18-8. This time, King did a right sweep for the final 11 yards to lock in the win.
  On the Indians' final drive, Jordan Buck intercepted a pass from Cantrell at the 'Lander 44 and Cloudland burned up the clock for the remainder.
  "I am hoping that it was just the field those first three quarters," Keith said. "They were ready for us. They were prepared for us. You know, when a field is like this it is hard to cut. I thought we could just get in the power-I and just pound them. They were ready for it. They were closing every gap and had 10 men up on the line waiting. We had a few plays where we threw the ball and got down the field. Every time called back to the inside for a run they just stuffed it.
  "I made some bad calls and I missed Robbie Turbyfill as my eyes up there (in the press box)," Keith said. "I figured out that we had to get outside somehow. Jones and Jonah did an excellent job there taking the ball down the field. Then they pulled and shifted everybody where they could stop the squeeze. When they did that, Toby was wide open.
  "Those last two scores were from the bootleg off to the weak side. Toby really stepped up. He got some big first downs. It was just so dang sloppy, and I was hesitant to sweep the ball. They blocked their butt off there at the end. They were determined not to lose."
  Coach Keith is also hoping that the team can take this game away as a learning experience. The team had yet this season come back from being down for half a game. Knowing the tough competition that Oneida will bring to Roan Mountain this Friday, the team now knows how to come back from a deficit.
  "It was rough the first two quarters," King said. "In the second half, we knew we had to step it up and we did. We are going to have to play a lot better than that to beat Coalfield. We are going to have to practice hard and work our butts off."
  Most of the Landers walked away from Carroll Dale Stadium a bit tougher than they were when the got there.
  "We knew that we had to be on the ball to win," running back Cody Jones said. "We had to learn to play in that mud a little bit better from the first half. It makes cutting and stuff hard. We are going to practice longer and harder this week and just prepare all week. I am just glad that we came out with a winning season."