Local fans rally around Highlanders

Just like a car driving on the wrong side of the road would do to a motorist, the Cloudland Highlander football team had the full attention of Carter and Johnson Counties the last couple of weeks.
   The Highlanders made it to the state championship game, and football fans from Mountain City to Warrior Hill were behind them all the way.
   It was a pleasant surprise to see fans from other schools supporting the 'Landers. You see, this is an area that is not known for supporting each other.
   During the season, I sensed some animosity towards other local schools by some teams. This was really brought to my attention when I covered a game in October that saw seven unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called.
   The next week, an ugly situation happened at another game involving two local schools. At both games, they didn't even have prayer after the contest.
   Last basketball season, there was a letter to the editor in this
   newspaper that talked about fans from other local schools cheering for a team two hours away in the Region 1-A basketball tournament.
   It was incidents like these that has made the last few weeks very encouraging.
   People from all over Carter and Johnson County showed their support for these boys. Johnson County head football coach Mike Atwood took several of his players to the Blue Cross Bowl to cheer on the 'Landers.
   Hampton was also behind the 'Landers. The day after Cloudland clinched its spot in the state title game, I overheard several Hampton supporters talk about how they wanted the boys from Roan Mountain to win.
   Students from Elizabethton and Happy Valley stood outside the school when Cloudland's bus drove by, holding signs of encouragement.
   At Unaka, I had a fan come up to me the other night to tell me how he wanted Cloudland to win, and that he enjoyed the stories leading up to the state title game.
   The 'Landers not only had support from Carter and Johnson Counties, but also throughout Northeast Tennessee.
   Every comment about sports over the last couple of weeks has had something to do with Cloudland. For two weeks, people put aside their school loyalties to concentrate on bringing a state football championship to this side of Jefferson County.
   The 'Landers brought local communities together. Their goal was to win a state championship, but the accomplishment of putting everybody on the same page is just as great as being the top dog on the football field.
   I have to say that right now I'm very proud to be from this area. I hope I can say that about three months from now.
   We need to support one another. When your school plays another local school, pull for your team. But when it comes down to substate and state tournament games, root for your area.
   It was good to see that people in our area realized what Cloudland accomplished this season. But we must remember this and not look back.
   We have six wonderful schools in our area, and they deserve our support. We don't need animosity toward the teams, and we certainly don't need some of the things that have happened in the last year.
   It's time we all unite as one, and get over our bitterness.
   Maybe the last couple of weeks is the start of something very special.
   Hopefully, we'll have some schools make the state tournament in boys and girls basketball. And if they do, I hope they get the same support the Cloudland football team did.
   And Cloudland could very well be back in the Blue Cross Bowl next year.
   If they, or any other local school makes it, I hope the same enthusiasm that was shown this season will be there the next.
   I want to personally congratulate the Highlanders for their great
   season. It was one people here will never forget.
   But most importantly, congratulations on bringing the area together.