The Highlanders started out strong and then held off a late rally to take a 26-14 victory over Johnson County on Friday night at Orr Field.
The win moves Cloudland to 4-0 on the season.
Cloudland came out of the gate strong as they took the opening kickoff and embarked on a 13-play drive that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Zac Benfield. After the ‘Landers defense recovered a botch punt snap by the Longhorns, Cloudland quickly struck as Austin Whitehead ran in from six yards out as the two-point conversion gave Cloudland a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Whitehead opened up the second quarter scoring on the first play of the stanza as he broke free for a nine-yard run to push Cloudland to a 20-0 lead.. Johnson County answered on their next drive as Warren Kerley hit Greg Roark for a 65-yard touchdown. Prior to that play, the Longhorns were held in negative yardage.
The teams swapped possessions for the remainder of the half as the ‘Landers continued to hold a 20-7 lead.
In the second half, Cloudland used a bit of trickery to get back on the scoreboard as Benfield pitched to Whitehead who then found Colby Birchfield in the endzone for the score. 26-7 was the score as the third quarter expired.
In the final quarter, the Longhorns tried to rally as Kerley hit Chase Phillips for a score. After recovering a Cloudland fumble, Johnson County was stopped on fourth down as the ‘Landers held on for the win.
Whitehead finished the game with 101 yards on 28 with three touchdowns, while Birchfield recorded 72 yards on 12 carries. Whitehead was also 5-of-8 for 56 yards.
Jordan Grubb led Johnson County with 33 yards on five carries, while Kerley went 17-of-39 passing for 261 yards.
Cloudland returns to action next week as they host Unaka.
“It was real pretty. We came out and we drove the ball down the field and scored. When they made a mistake we made them pay for it on the punt snap. It came down to straight toughness, and our defense bent but didn’t really break. When they made plays, we were position for the most part. They are a well-coached football team. They had a good plan and we were just able to execute to bend and not break on defense. Coach Jon Julian, Coach Devon Whitehead and Coach Mason Carnett did a great job preparing us for the game.”
“Our kids were ready. The field got really sloppy in the second half. It is sloppy for both teams, and you wish you could have four inch cleats on but you can’t. It is a huge win for our program,”
-Cloudland Head Coach Brock Pittman
“They were the better team tonight.”
-Johnson County Head Coach Don Kerely