By Tim Gardner
Avery County native Mike Lunsford is hanging up the whistle after a nearly four-decade coaching career marked by consistent success.
Lunsford announced his intention to retire as Cloudland, Tennessee High School’s head football and also as its girls’ head basketball coach. He informed both teams of his decision this week.
Lunsford, who lives in Elk Park, is best known for coaching football. He was the longest tenured high school head football coach in the Elizabethton and Johnson City regions of Tennessee at the time of his resignation. He was a head football coach for 25 years, including two tenures for a total of eighteen years at Cloudland High in Roan Mountain, and seven years at Hampton
He also was an assistant at Avery County High in Newland in 2004, specifically as offensive coordinator. He then served as an assistant at Hampton for four seasons (2005-2008) before succeeding his fellow-legend J.C. Campbell as head coach there in 2009.
Lunsford tallied a sterling 225-68 record as a head coach. He led teams to 23 winning seasons, six undefeated regular seasons, 24 state playoff bids and a state championship game berth.
“I’ve coached for 39 years,” Lunsford stated. “It’s time for a rest and nothing to do. The pressure is off. Coaching is harder than it was ten years ago. I’m going to miss coaching. I’m not saying I won’t coach again, but I doubt I’ll be a head coach or a coordinator (offensive or defensive) again.”
Lunsford was Cloudland’s head football coach for 15 years before resigning the first time there in 2003. He returned as the Highlanders’ head coach in 2016, serving three years during his second stint.
He led Cloudland to a 159-53 record and a state 1-A runner-up finish in 2001.
Under Lunsford’s direction, Cloudland also won the Region 1-A championship each of the past three seasons. The Highlanders were 9-3 in 2018 with the losses coming by a combined 23 points. They reached the second round of the state playoffs.
At Hampton, Lunsford compiled a 66-15 record. He led the Bulldogs to a 13-1 mark and a state semifinal berth during his last year there (2015).
Lunsford’s football conference winning percentage astoundingly was more than 91 percent.
As the Cloudland Lady Highlanders head coach the past two seasons (2017-2018 and 2018-2019), Lunsford had a 45-21 record. His teams made the Region 1 Semifinals this season and the state sectionals a season ago.
Lunsford’s son, Michael, one of his former players and assistants, succeeded his father as Hampton’s head football coach.