Cloudland head football coach charged with making threats

Zach Vance • Updated May 11, 2018 at 7:03 PM

The head football coach and girls basketball coach of Cloudland High School was issued a criminal summons in Avery County, N.C., last month for allegedly threatening to knock out a 73-year-old man’s teeth. 

Michael Lunsford, 56, of Hicks Hollow Road, Elk Park, N.C., was charged for communicating threats to Ballard Jennings, 73, of Roan Mountain, on April 21, according to the criminal summons signed by Avery County, N.C., Magistrate Judge Bill Burleson. 

“I, the undersigned, find that there is probable cause to believe that on or about the date of offense shown and in the county named above you unlawfully and willfully did threaten to physically injure the person of Ballard Jennings,” the summons stated. 

“The threat was communicated to Ballard Jennings by threatening to knock out every one of his teeth, and the threat was made in a manner and under circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to believe that the threat was likely to be carried out and the person threatened believed that the threat would be carried out.” 

When reached for comment on Friday, Carter County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Ward said he is investigating the matter. 

“I have spoken to Mr. Jennings and Mr. Lunsford about the criminal summons brought against Mr. Lunsford in the General Court of Justice of Avery County, North Carolina,” Ward said. 

“We are conducting an investigation into the matter, but at present I believe it is necessary to await the decision of the Avery County Court on the criminal summons. I have requested that a copy of the Avery County Courts decision be given to me as soon as it is made.”

Ward did not clarify whether Lunsford is actually still teaching at Cloudland or not. 

A graduate of Cloudland, Lunsford was first named head football coach at his alma mater in 1989 and served until 2003, when he took a job at neighboring Hampton High School. During his first stint coaching at Cloudland, Lunsford accumulated 136 victories and led the Highlanders to the Class 1A state title game in 2001. 

Following 2003, Lunsford served as an assistant coach at Hampton under J.C07.

Lunsford took the reins of Hampton’s football program in 2009 and led the Bulldogs to a 67-15 record before returning to Cloudland in February 2016 to once again coach the football and girls basketball programs. 

Communicating threats is a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina and carries a punishment of up to 120 days of active, intermediate or community punishment. 

Lunsford is scheduled to appear in court on June 13. 


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