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Highlanders open league slate with 44-8 win over Indians

Gene Renfro • Sep 13, 2018 at 10:46 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — With Jordan Coffey gaining 159 yards on the ground and Conner Birchfield rushing for three touchdowns, Cloudland won a 12th straight conference football game to open its 2018 league slate Thursday night — knocking off Hancock County 44-8 at Orr Field.

The Highlanders improved to 3-1 and took the first of their three conference games. Also, Cloudland beat Hancock County for a seventh straight time.

“A big game last week (win at Avery County) and I thought we came out a little bit flat tonight,” Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford said. “Hancock County is a better team. We just have to do things right. This game was tough because of it being sandwiched between rivalry games. It’s hard sometimes to focus.”

Opening scores

Cloudland’s first drive took three plays and covered 65 yards in just 64 seconds. The scoring drive was capped by Birchfield, who went around the left side of the line, then dove for the pylon on a 20-yard scamper.

Birchfield punctuated the next Highlander drive as well. This time a 6-yard rush up the middle capped an eight-play scoring march. Josh Blair added the 2-point conversion to make it a 14-point advantage.

Cloudland’s first two drives resulted in 14 points on 11 plays and 145 yards.

More Highlander offense

Blair capped a second-quarter drive with a 5-yard touchdown dive. The Highlanders converted the two-point attempt to own a 22-0 lead with five minutes left in the half.

Birchfield added a 25-yard touchdown run on the Highlanders’ opening drive of the third quarter. The junior running back was productive with four carries for 62 yards and his three scores.

The next Cloudland possession ended when Coffey galloped 8 yards to the end zone. He also added the two-point run to make it a 36-0 advantage late in the third quarter.

Coffey raced 73 yards for the game’s final score to close his night. The senior running back gathered his 159 yards on nine carries while the Highlanders rushed for 292 yards on 25 attempts.

“The (offensive) line is playing extremely well,” Lunsford said. “There are not many carries where we aren’t gaining yards. It’s going to be a big challenge next week. We’re playing really hard.”

Indians chop

Reserve running back Darren Collins posted a 64-yard touchdown run after the game had been decided. That was part of the Indians’ 186 yards rushing.

Next week

Cloudland welcomes Happy Valley next week. A season ago the Highlanders lost 43-0 against the Warriors.

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