Would any team expect to lose if it has Bobby Boucher?
Well, Cloudland’s football team doesn’t really have The Waterboy. And even though Highlanders’ head coach Brock Pittman calls freshman James Arwood by that name because he plays like the fictional character, it’s just one small part of a team that is off to an eye-opening start.
Cloudland forcibly disposed of Johnson County on Friday night. It was a 40-6 road whipping few people saw coming, and the Highlanders’ fourth straight win to start the season.
“I don’t think anybody expected the outcome we had last night,” said Pittman, a former ETSU football player who is in his second season with the Highlanders with a record of 12-4. “At the same time, it didn’t surprise me because we are capable of doing things like that. We’ve just been getting better offensively and defensively every week.
“The kids are tough on Roan Mountain.”
Cloudland started its season with a gritty 12-6 win over Avery County, N.C. The next week, the ’Landers toughed out a 21-18 victory against Happy Valley.
A 27-10 win over Cosby was followed by the Johnson County destruction, which was a low-mistake performance.
“Last night was all about execution,” said Pittman. “We turned the ball over early and that led to a score, but that was probably the only mistake we made. We executed up front offensively, the wide receivers made plays when they had the chance, and the defense made plays and made tackles and wrapped up.”
Cloudland probably has its most athletic team overall in quite a few years.
“We are pretty athletic,” said Pittman. “Our linemen can run, and our receivers can run. A lot of these guys play basketball year round when they’re not in football. I think that helps them. They’re always moving and always working. And with the linemen it helps their footwork.”
At the head of the athlete class is quarterback Austin Whitehead. The sophomore ran for three scores, passed for two others and totaled 261 yards of offense against the Longhorns.
“He’s really coachable and a smart kid,” said Pittman. “He can come tell me what will work and what won’t work based on the alignment of the defense.
“And most importantly he’s one of the toughest kids I’ve seen in my short career. He’s pure grit. When it comes down to it, if any coach needed somebody to carry the ball they would give it to him.”
On the other side of the ball is a force in the same mold as Whitehead. Senior linebacker Mason Carnett has made a habit of double-digit tackle performances.
“He’s a 4.0 student, actually higher than 4.0,” said Pittman. “He understands the defense and what we’re trying to do, and he understands offense. He looks at the formations, reads the blocks, and he’s there where you need him to be.”
Other players who have stepped up include lineman Ethan Lusk, and receivers Zac Benfield, Nick Johnson and Matt Houston.
“Lusk has great feet ... just a typical Roan Mountain kid,” said Pittman. “And those receivers are all making plays. They are blocking down field, and using that to their advantage when we throw the ball.”
Pittman also mentioned “Boucher” at linebacker along with offensive lineman Noah Blair as a pair of freshman who have made key contributions as starters.
“(Arwood) is just crazy,” said Pittman with a laugh. “That’s just how he plays.”
Overall, Pittman said he likes what he sees from his team as it heads into next week’s game at Unaka.
“We have enough athletic ability to win games,” said Pittman. “Most of the guys we had last year are back this year. We’ve just got to get better at what we do.”