The ‘Landers had gotten rid of the conference championship monkey early in the year. However, Coalfield proved to be a different story.
Cloudland was unable to overcome the Yellow Jackets defense in a 38-6 loss in the first round of the Class A playoffs. It was the second straight season that Coalfield has ended Cloudland’s season in the playoffs.
“The penalties hurt us right off the bat,” Cloudland Head Coach Brock Pittman said. “It is hard to finish drives against defenses like this. We gave it a heck of an effort and I am proud of them.”
The loss ends the ‘Landers season with a 6-5 mark.
The ‘Landers took a body blow in the start of the second quarter when quarterback Austin Whitehead was disqualified after picking up his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the night.
“(The officials) said he was doing stuff late, and that is just not him,” Pittman said. “He doesn’t do that. He goes hard to the whistle, and that is who he is and has been for four years. I completely disagree with the calls. I think he was being Austin, and he is not a cheap guy.”
Cloudland took the opening drive and marched deep into Coalfield territory, but was stopped on fourth down. The Yellow Jackets took advantage of the offense’s opening drive as Andrew Clore dived in on a yard touchdown.
The ‘Landers moved to midfield, but a fumble ended the drive. Drake Miklas gave Coalfield a 14-0 lead with a 20-yard score to end the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Coalfield added a touchdown in the opening minutes after the Whitehead disqualification. Cloudland was unable to get anything going as the Yellow Jackets extended the lead to 26-0 lead at the half.
After the Yellow Jackets took a 38-0 lead in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, the ‘Landers offense broke onto the board with a three-yard run from Colby Birchfield.
Birchfield finished the game with 126 rushing yards on 21 carries, while Whitehead had added 43 yards. Malachi Benfield went 4-of-8 passing for 34 yards.
“Colby stepped it up in the second half,” Pittman said. “I am proud of him. He has been a workhorse for us for four years.I am proud of Austin for being the player that he is. He goes hard, and I can’t explain why they kicked him out. I really can’t explain it.”
Dakota Ashley finished with 72 yards on four receptions.
Coalfield’s Parker McKinney finished the game 12-of-19 passing for 250 yards in his first game back since early in the season.
Despite the first round loss, the ‘Landers had an outstanding year – including the program’s first conference championship in 11 years.
“We are champions, and they played like champions tonight,” Pittman said. “I am proud of them. It had been 11 years, and we earned it. I am proud of them.”