Cloudland finally got the monkey off their backs.
The ‘Landers broke a lengthy wait for a conference title as this year’s squad claimed the Smoky Mountain Conference with a 66-14 win over Hancock County on Friday night at Orr Field.
“We have been fighting for one for four years and came so close a lot,” Cloudland senior Austin Whitehead said. “Now it feels like we have a monkey off our back to finally win a conference championship. It is a great feeling.”
With the win, the ‘Landers completed the conference slate with an unblemished record for the first time since 2004, and wrapped up the No. 1 seed in Region 1-A.
“It is awesome to win a title,” Cloudland Head Coach Brock Pittman said. “These seniors have been so close for three years, and they deserve it more then anybody. It was good for us to come out and play the way we did by taking care of business. We are excited because we are conference champions.”
Cloudland improved to 6-3 overall and 4-0 in conference play.
The ‘Landers set the tone early.
Senior Colby Birchfield raced 66-yards for a touchdown on the first offensive play of the game, and Dakota Ashley caught a 19-yard pass to give Cloudland an early 16-0 lead. Birchfield struck again on a 35-yard run to give the ‘Landers a 24-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.
“The kids set the tone early and that is what I wanted them to do,” Pittman said. “They knew what we were playing for tonight, and that played a big part of it. We are going to enjoy and get ready for Catholic next week.”
After the Cloudland defense forced a punt, Noah Arnett broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run. On the ensuing kickoff, Josh Stevens forced a fumble, by taking the ball from the Hancock returner, and raced 26 yards for a touchdown as Cloudland took a 38-0 lead after a quarter of play.
In the second quarter, Arnett scored his second total touchdown of the night with a three-yard catch off a Whitehead pass. The Indians broke onto the scoreboard on their next possession, but Cloudland answered with a two-yard Birchfield touchdown to give CHS a 50-8 lead at the half.
After the Indians opened the second half with an impressive touchdown drive, Birchfield capped off his night with a seven-yard touchdown run as CHS held a 58-14 lead at the end of the fourth. The final score of the game came in the fourth quarter as Ethan Howell caught a Malachi Enfield pass.
Birchfield led the way with 156 yards on 10 carries with four scores. Whitehead added 85 yards with six carries on the ground, and went 3-for-3 for 33 yards and two touchdowns. Arnett had 67 yards on a carry and score with a catch and score.
Defensively, James Arwood finished with 5.5 tackles, while Noah Blair and Ashley had four tackles apiece.
The ‘Landers will wrap up the regular season with a trip to Knox Catholic on Friday night.