Sometimes the breaks don’t fall your way, and that was the case for the Cloudland football team on Friday night.
The ‘Landers saw the 2020 campaign come to a heartbreaking close with a 24-20 loss to Oliver Springs in the Class A playoffs in the second round. Cloudland finished the season with a 7-5 mark and claimed the Region 1-A title.
Cloudland found themselves in a heavyweight fight, but never backed down.
The CHS defense forced a quick three-and-out to open the game, but the ensuing punt hit a defender and Oliver Springs recovered. That set the Bobcats up in prime scoring position as Kane Gouge caught a 10-yard pass from Zack Elliott for the score midway through the first quarter.
The Cloudland defense stopped the two-point conversion.
The CHS offense was unable to get anything on their first drive of the game but was able to flip field position as the punt was pinned inside the Oliver Springs 5. The ‘Lander defense limited OS to a three-and-out to set the CHS offense up at midfield.
Cloudland went to work on a nine-play drive that was capped off when Chase Shell hit Caleb Sluder over the middle of the field for a 19-yard touchdown. The ‘Landers were unable to add the two-point conversion as the score was tied at 6-6 with 6:51 to play.
After the Cloudland’s Seth Birchfield recovered an Oliver Springs fumble, the ‘Lander offense went back to work with a seven-play drive that covered 56 yards. The drive ended as Chase Shell scored on a QB keeper, and Cloudland pushed the advantage to 14-6 with just under three minutes left in the half.
Oliver Springs, however, battled back with a lengthy drive of their own – that was aided with two pass interference penalties – as Jacob Hileman scored on a pass from Elliott to tie the game up at 14-14 at the half.
Early in the third quarter, Oliver Springs took advantage of a Cloudland fumble on the opening drive as Brandon Nation broke free for a 40-yard touchdown and then was able to convert the two-point conversion on a pass from Elliot to Cameron Stockton.
The ‘Landers got back on their feet on offense and moved the ball efficiently on the next drive. Birchfield got back on the board as he broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run to trim the OS lead.
Cloudland was unable to add the two-point conversion as CHS trailed 22-20 after three complete quarters.
The fourth quarter saw the Cloudland defense limit Oliver Springs, while the ‘Landers kept battling.
The CHS defense – sparked by a pair of key plays from Eli Preswood – forced a quick three-and-out early in the quarter. The offense moved the ball to midfield, but didn’t get a break on a pass interference call on fourth down that was ruled a late hit instead – allowing OS to takeover on downs.
Cloudland forced a pair of Oliver Spring punts throughout the quarter, but the offense was unable to mount a rally to extend the season. The ‘Landers held Oliver Springs to -7 yards during the final 12 minutes.
Birchfield finished with a strong showing of 118 yards on 19 carries, while Sluder had eight carries for 51 yards and also added 19 receiving yards.
Shell had six carries for 20 yards while adding 42 yards through the air.
Nation led Oliver Springs with 86 yards on 15 carries, while Elliott was 4-of-8 passing for 36 yards.
As a team, Cloudland outgained the Bobcats 239-150.
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