Cloudland has a new football coach, and he’s young and ready to roll.
Zac Benfield was chosen Friday to take over the Highlanders’ program. The former Cloudland standout is 24 years old.
“I am excited to be at my alma mater,” Benfield said. “I think all coaches have a desire to coach at their alma mater, and doing it at age 24 is a big deal for me.”
Benfield takes over from Scott Potter, who stepped down last month after leading the Highlanders to a 7-5 finish in 2020. Cloudland lost a tough one to Oliver Springs in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.
The Highlanders have a proud tradition, and Benfield said he believes it can continue.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be back at Cloudland,” he said. “The kids from the Roan Mountain area have always had a special place in my heart, and this has been a job I’ve been eyeing for a couple of months. I believe in these kids, and I can’t wait to get to work.”
Benfield was a standout defensive back and wide receiver for the Highlanders from 2011-14. His coaching experience ranges from Cloudland Middle School to assistant under Mike Lunsford at the high school, and offensive coordinator for the Highlanders in 2019.
In 2020, Benfield was an assistant under Michael Lunsford at Hampton. He will continue as an assistant at Avery County in North Carolina through the end of its spring season.
Cloudland principal Richard Church said, “We need a young energetic coach like Zac Benfield to continue the tradition of this program, make strong community connections, and lead this football team into the future. We are fortunate to have a successful Cloudland graduate who is committed to these kids and this community.”
The Highlanders will enter the 2021 season with a streak of five straight years of winning a playoff game.