It was a happy Homecoming in Roan Mountain on Friday night, albeit a strange one.
Cloudland captured the 54-0 win over Concord Christian at Orr Field for their fourth consecutive win. The game was called at halftime after Concord Christian had to forfeit due to injuries that hurt the roster size.
“We just came out and played well and executed,” Cloudland Head Coach Brock Pittman said. “It was a good night. I think it might be a record night with the crowd. It is just awesome to see everyone out. Unfortunately, they had to forfeit, but in their defense they did not have a choice.”
The win moves Cloudland to 4-1 on the season.
“It is part of the growing pains, and it is a part of life,” Concord Christian Head Coach Troy Fleming said. “I love these young men like I love my own son, and I wouldn’t put my own son in harm’s way, and I am not going to do that with them. It is a numbers game. They gave their best effort, played hard and left it on the field. For us to continue in the future and play, you have to have numbers. You have to make the best decision and do what is right.”
The Lions were limited in roster size to begin the game, and injuries during the first half made the situation even more dire.
“I am glad it happened at half time,” Fleming said. “They were able to get their gate, concessions and their fans not miss out on homecoming activities. I am not going to say it is a win-win for both teams, but it is the right thing for both teams.”
Cloudland set the tone early as Concord was forced to punt, and the ‘Landers got on the scoreboard when Austin Whitehead returned the punt 77-yards for the score. After another Lions punt, Colby Birchfield raced 55 yards for the score to give Cloudland a 16-0 lead with just under six minutes to play in the first quarter.
The next Concord drive was stopped when Whitehead jumped in front of a Lions pass for the interception. The ‘Landers wasted no time as Birchfield capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run that gave Cloudland a 24-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The first play of the second quarter saw Birchfield strike again with his third touchdown of the night – this one an eight yard run.
After Concord was held on fourth down,Whitehead scored on a 49-yard run, which was a result of a busted play. Noah Arnett converted the two-point conversion.The Cloudland defense stopped the Lions again on fourth down.
On the ensuing drive, Birchfield broke free for a 61-yard score, and Brinkley Mull was the recipient of a Whitehead pass for the conversion. It was Birchfield’s turn to intercept a Lion pass on the next drive as the senior laid out for the pick.
Jordan Coffey carried the ‘Landers down the field on the next drive – scoring on a six-yard touchdown run right before the half.
Prior to the half, the coaching staff of Concord informed the game officials they were down to 11 healthy players which prompted the forfeit.
“I was happy that we were able to get a lot of our guys in on both sides of the ball,” Pittman said. “I know it was late but as soon as I found out they were forfeiting I tried to get as many kids in the game as I could. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get them all in.”
Whitehead finished the evening with 180 yards on seven carries, while Birchfield had 121 yards on five carries. Coffey finished the night with 32 yards on three carries.
Behind the dominating offensive line, Cloudland averaged 20.8 yards per play.
Defensively, the ‘Landers held Concord to just 38 total offensive yards.
Whitehead led the defense with 5 tackles, while James Arwood tallied four tackles. Ethan Howell and Peyton Brock had two tackles apiece.
“I told our players when they have kids I can promise you Concord Christian will be a really good football team and they can tell their kids they beat them,” Pittman said. “It is a good win. Anytime, you can beat a team out of Knoxville it is a good win.”
Cloudland returns to action when they travel to Hampton for the neighboring rivalry. That game at JC Campbell Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.