Not many people outside of Roan Mountain gave Cloudland a chance to keep it close on Friday night. However, the ‘Landers answered the bell in Mike Lunsford’s return.
The ‘Landers went toe-to-toe with Class 3A Northview Academy, but was unable to hold on in a heartbreaking 41-38 loss in the season opener.
After CHS was forced to punt on the opening series, Justin Howard found Zeb Petter for a 35-yard touchdown pass to give the Cougars an early 7-0 lead.
Cloudland, however, answered with a smash mouth approach by taking over six minutes off the clock to end the quarter. Noah Arnett opened the second with a 3-yard touchdown run and ran in the two-point conversion to give CHS an 8-7 advantage. After Northview regained a 13-8 lead, Arnett answered on the next Cloudland drive with a 5-yard run to give CHS a 16-13 lead with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter.
Northview, however, struck quickly as Howard scored with seven-seconds remaining to push the Cougars to a 20-16 lead at the half.
The ‘Lander defense forced Northview to punt to open the third quarter. The CHS offense moved quickly as Jordan Coffey found the end zone to give the ‘Landers a 24-20 advantage midway through the frame. The teams traded possessions before Howard threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to give Northview a 27-24 lead entering the final quarter.
A weary and outmanned Cloudland team wouldn’t give up in the final stanza despite having issues with the heat.
After the Cougars extended the lead to 10 points, Preston Benfield answered with a 78-yard touchdown run down the right sideline to close the gap back to two-points. The Cougars put another Howard touchdown pass on the board with 5:12 to play.
Cloudland continued to fight as Benfield hit Brinkley Mull in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 42 seconds left. The ensuing onside kick didn’t take a CHS bounce as Northview was able to run out the clock.
Benfield tallied an impressive 138 yards on 12 carries despite only recording five yards in the first half. Arnett finished the night with 22 carries for 112 yards, while Coffey had 13 carries for 84 yards.
Benfield finished the game 5-of-7 passing for 55 yards. Mull had two catches for 31 yards.
Cloudland opens the home slate of games on Friday night as they welcome Happy Valley to Orr Field.