Oneida puts end to Cloudland's season

Photo by John Bryant
Cloudland’s Jordan Buck breaks up a pass intended for Oneida’s --------- in Class 1A state football playoff action on Friday night. The Indians defeated the Highlanders by a 22-0 score. Page 4B.



  The Cloudland Highlanders came back from a disappointing start of the season to win the conference championship. But the end of the season may be as disappointing as the start as they lost their first-round playoff matchup against Region 2 foe, the Oneida Indians, in a 22-0 shutout at Orr Field Friday night.
  While the 'Landers are disappointed not to make it into the second round, many are just glad they made it through the rough spots and finish with a winning season at 6-5 overall.
  "We just got beat by a better team," Highlander head coach Gary Keith said. "They were stronger than we were. They were bigger than we were. At halftime, they were ready to go but we just couldn't stop them on offense.
  "We didn't have the ball a whole lot the second half. We had a lack of offense and we couldn't stop them on defense. They just kept the ball too long. Oneida is a tough team and they have a better conference than we do. What can you say -- we just took a butt-whoopin."
  "We didn't have the ball a whole lot the second half. We had a lack of offense and we couldn't stop them on defense. They just kept the ball too long. Oneida is a tough team and they have a better conference than we do. What can you say -- we just took a butt-whoopin."
  The 'Landers lost this ball game on the line, both offensively and defensively. Cloudland only had seven first downs in the game, with Oneida rolling in 17. Oneida's defense held the 'Landers to 122 yards total while racking up 276 themselves.
  "I told them not to hang their heads," Keith said. "They were giving it everything they had. I gave them an earful at halftime, but they felt as bad as I did. I thought we still had a chance to win it after the half. We just couldn't get the ball in the second half and we couldn't stop their offense.
  Cloudland advanced its first drive only 16 yards, 13 of those from an outside sweep from Cody Jones. They were still looking OK when on Oneida's first play Gary Buchanan laid down a sack for a loss of six.
  The Indians would advance only four more yards before Toby King caught an interception from quarterback Zach Smith.
  The 'Landers advanced the ball but were hindered by 20 penalty yards on their next drive, and punted it back to the Oneida 17. This time, the Indians would reel off an 18-play drive for a touchdown, with Smith handing off to Rhyne Douglas for a five-yard TD run and 6-0 lead.
  On Cloudland's next drive, it advanced 29 yards on an 8-play drive, but a fumble gave the Indians an easy territory at the 'Lander 37. This time, Jonathan Lewallen ran for a 2-yard touchdown, and a Smith PAT made the score 13-0.
  On the next 'Lander drive, the only first down was handed to them from a penalty, and they handed Oneida good field possession again at their 48.
  The Indians brought it down to the 13, but three incomplete passes and a field goal that was no good kept the score at 13-0 at the half.
  "It was a big win for us to come up here and to beat them on their home field," Oneida co-coach Jimmy May. "To get a shut out with such a great tradition up here shows that our kids put out a great effort tonight. This is the third time in three years that we have had to go to Greenback in the second round. They are a good team. Hopefully, we can turn it around on them and get the victory."
  Oneida kept the ball for 11 and a half of the 12-minute period, with the 'Landers' only possessions being a 2-play drive that ended with a fumble off a bad snap in the end zone for a safety, and a 5-play drive that rolled over into the fourth period, only to end with an interception. In the meantime, Smith would have a 15-yard run and extra-point kick for a 22-0 lead.
  The Highlanders would have one more chance when they were handed 10 yards off an Indian penalty, but a sack to King stopped the play cold and ended the chance for Roan Mountain to host round two.
  "I think we were really a better team than them," King said. "We should have beat them, I think. We just made some stupid mistakes. They guys played their hearts out for us this year. They have stepped up and played real well. Beating Unaka was the most satisfying win of the year."
  It was a sad night for the 'Landers and their fans, but they are going to look back on this as a positive year that ended with a conference championship, and a chance to learn from their mistakes and to prove to the region that they are still the Cloudland Highlanders of old.
  "We should have played a lot smarter than that," Lander tight end Jonathan 'Possum' Pritchard said. "My biggest thing was winning the conference this year and being the conference champs. I wanted to win this game. I didn't care much about the next one. I just wanted to win this one here for my coach. I thank Coach Keith for everything this year and all the players for working so hard."