Cloudland held on for a thrilling county win Friday night.
The ‘Landers held off a Happy Valley rally to take a 14-12 win in the season opener on Warrior Hill.
The defenses set the tone early.
Cloudland started the game on the HV side of the 50 after a 41-yard return from Kingston Cole, but the drive stalled when HV’s Zack Hicks jumped on a fumble.
The Warriors crossed the 50 on its opening offensive series, but the ‘Lander defense held strong to force a punt. The teams traded possessions throughout the first quarter as the game went to the second quarter scoreless.
Cloudland struck first in the second.
Jacob Stinnett nabbed an interception and raced 64 yards for a pick-six to get Cloudland on the board. Kyle Birchfield added the two-point conversion.
CHS got back on the board in the closing seconds of the half as a 19-play drive ended with a short touchdown run to send Cloudland into the locker room with a 14-0 lead.
The teams traded possessions to open the third quarter.
Happy Valley’s offense got things going midway through the quarter as a quick drive saw Aiden Paul hit Austin Nickles for a 27-yard pass, and Grady Goulds jumped on the fumble for the score. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful.
The Warriors struck again in the fourth as Jamie Esterline caught a Drew Blevins pass for a 22-yard touchdown, but HV was unable to add the two-point conversion.
The ‘Lander offense took care of business in the closing minutes to preserve the win.
Birchfield led Cloudland with 154 yards on 30 carries, while freshman Grayson Cole had 11 carries for 62 yards.The ‘Landers finished with 214 offensive yards – all of which were on the ground.
Blevins went 6-of-16 passing for the Warriors for 103 yards and a score, while Nickles had 52 yards on three catches. Landon Keller and Ron Paul Parker had 36 and 28 receiving yards, respectively.
Cloudland is set to host West Greene next Friday night, while Happy Valley will welcome Unicoi County to Warrior Hill.
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