ROAN MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Highlanders are seeking just their second trip to a football state championship game in school history on Friday night.
Head Coach Zac Benfield and his squad quite literally needed every second of their quarterfinal matchup against Coalfield to advance. Senior running back Seth Birchfield scored with less than three seconds left and converted a two-point conversion to lift the Highlanders over the Yellow Jackets, 22-21.
“We just kept our heads on, coaches kept doing what we were doing,” senior running back Seth Birchfield said. “We didn’t try nothing fancy – just done what we can do.”
“I think they know in their own hearts that, listen, no matter who we play, if we come to play we can win,” Benfield said in practice this week. “For the kids to have that confidence going into this game and hopefully into Chattanooga is huge.”
Cloudland will host South Pittsburg (10-2) on Friday night in the 1A semifinals. The Pirates have scored a combined 145 points in three postseason games this season, while allowing just 21 points.
“They’re probably a little bit faster than us, so our DB’s are going to have to stay awake on the passing,” Birchfield said.
“I expect them to be trying to hit the corners a lot – trying to get to the sideline and turn it up,” Benfield said. “They’re really, really fast – a really well-coached team. It’s going to be a chore this week, for sure.”
“We’ve got to be on our toes and ready to go,” linebacker Coy Laney said.
The Highlanders, however, are confident in their gameplan and preparation.
“Being disciplined and tough consistently,” Benfield said. “I know that sounds cliché, but I really truly think if we can do those two things really consistently, I really think we may – have a shot, at least, at the end of it.”
The Highlanders and Pirates have only met twice in the programs’ history. The only win Cloudland was able to collect in the series was a 44-6 victory back in 2001 – in the state semifinal.
For Birchfield, a win and a shot at the hardware would mean everything.
“My dad was the last team to go to state,” he said. “So, it would be awesome if we would be able to.”
Kickoff in Roan Mountain is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday.