ELIZABETHTON — Proving the old adage that football can be a game of inches, Cloudland hung on for a 21-18 victory over Happy Valley on Friday night at Warrior Hill.
With less than a minute to go, Warrior running back Phillip Garland tried to stretch across the goal line for the winning touchdown when Cloudland defensive back Zac Benfield knocked the ball out of his hands and out of the end zone.
It turned possession over to the Highlanders (2-0) and perserved a victory highlighted by a 17-tackle performance by linebacker Mason Carnett and a 157-yard rushing night by quarterback Austin Whitehead.
“He was trying to get that extra yard to get in there and when it popped out, it bounced right over the pylon out of the end zone,” Carnett said. “We got the touchback there.”
Garland had given Happy Valley (1-1) its only lead of the game on the opening possession of the second half. His six-yard run capped off a 13-play, 60-yard drive that lasted nearly eight minutes.
But, Cloudland answered with its own 59-yard drive. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Carnett, playing fullback, went straight up the middle 14 yards for the go-ahead score.
The game was evenly contested throughout with three extra-point kicks by Cloudland’s Dylen Markland the difference in the final margin. The Highlanders ended with a 258-232 rushing advantage, while the Warriors had more total offense 334-276.
Whitehead paced Cloudland with his 157 rushing yards coming on 18 carries. He also tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to Nick Johnson for the game’s first score.
“It was all about my line,” Whitehead said. “They blocked really good and opened up holes for me. That’s the reason I ran for so many yards tonight.”
Garland led Happy Valley with 101 yards, but none of them came easy. The Highlanders defense focused squarely on stopping him.
“They have a great football team and the best athlete around here in Garland,” Cloudland head coach Brock Pittman said. “He’s the best when you mix his height and weight with his speed. He was running through tackles like he does, but we stressed to wrap him up, wrap him up. We did a good job of keeping him from breaking the long one.”
Others for Happy Valley did break a few long ones.
After Cloudland’s first score, the Warriors responded with a 56-yard drive highlighted by Tyler Marlowe hitting Ethan Barnett on consecutive pass plays. The last play, Marlowe sprinted to the right side and found Barnett slanting towards the end zone for a 14-yard score.
However, Cloudland pushed the lead out to 14-6 just four plays later. Whitehead broke free on a 44-yard scamper and Colby Birchfield went over left tackle for a 21-yard score.
With just 45 seconds left in the half, the Warriors stormed back. Fullback Austin Hicks had a 43-yard run down to the Cloudland-18, and Marlowe split two defenders to hit Josh Hammons in the left corner of the end zone with only 2.7 seconds left.
But, the two-point conversion failed and the Highlanders took a 14-12 lead into the half.
Those missed conversions came back to haunt the Warriors. Head coach Larry Shively pointed out how his team had just three offensive possessions in the second half, although it turned out just two with a fumbled kickoff.
“Cloudland did what they wanted to do to minimize our possessions,” Shively said. “They shortened the game. I don’t think our kids listened to me this week. I told our kids that their kids could play. We will learn from this and get back to work on Monday.”
Happy Valley has a daunting task of hosting Three Rivers Conference favorite Sullivan South next Friday. Cloudland will travel to Cosby for its Mountain East Conference opener.
comments powered by Disqus