Cloudland started running and almost turned into Forrest Gump.
The Highlanders didn’t stop running until they had gained right at 600 yards. They didn’t even attempt one pass in a 60-0 destruction of Hancock County on Friday night in Sneedville.
“I was kind of dumbfounded when I saw that yardage total,” said head coach Brock Pittman on Saturday. “We expected to go in and win, but we didn’t expect to dominate as much as we did. We started off running the ball, and finished up running the ball. We had some big yardage early, and I didn’t see any need to throw it.”
Pittman recalled Georgia Tech racking up 604 yards rushing against Kansas last season, but said he had never heard of a team getting 600 yards rushing in high school.
“With 12-minute quarters it is kind of hard to do,” said Pittman, whose team was coming off a shutout loss and improved to 2-1 on the season. “We didn’t have a short field very often.”
Cloudland’s efforts were impressive, but the team total didn’t threaten a national record. Centerville, Texas, racked up 893 yards in an 82-48 win over Groveton back in 2003.
The individual single-game national record was set in 1950 by John Giannantonio, who rushed for 754 yards for Netcong, N.J.
However, Taylor Whitehead’s performance was off the charts. He racked up 277 yards on 19 carries and scored four touchdowns. Included in his scores was an 85-yard run.
Also, Jeffrey Rhinehart carried nine times for 152 yards and Colby Birchfield added 117 yards on 10 carries. Austin Whitehead had one carry for 50 yards and a score.
Pittman said credit for the run dominance belongs to center Dylen Markland, guards Devin Whitehead and Mason Carnett, and tackles Asley Haynes and Bret Hicks.
“All of the credit goes to the front five,” said Pittman. “They know that, and the running backs and quarterback know that. They did a great job coming off the ball, and staying on their blocks.”
Cloudland’s defense also performed very well to record the shutout.
“We played assignment-type defense against their option,” said Pittman. “And we got better as the game went on. I was really happy to see the kids figure it out and get better.”
Standing out on defense was Carnett, who had recently moved to linebacker. He had eight tackles and two sacks.
Alex Heaton got the start at defensive end, and Pittman said he played well.
“He made some mistakes early, but he learned from it,” said Pittman.
Also playing well were linebacker Punky Rhinehart and free safety Zac Benfield.
“All of the guys on defense did a good job,” said Pittman.
Next up is old rival Unaka, which is 0-3 and has been outscored 89-16.