It was an epic battle in Hampton on Thursday night, and it was the Bulldogs that came out on top.
Hampton took advantage of Cloudland special team miscues and held on late to take a 22-20 victory over the ‘Landers at JC Campbell Stadium. The win gave the Bulldogs the Mountain East Conference title, while Cloudland will take the region’s second automatic bid.
Neither team was able to get anything going in the first quarter. The ‘Landers struck first early in the second quarter as Austin Whitehead capped off an 88-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run. The extra point failed as CHS took a 6-0 lead.
The teams traded possessions until Hampton got on the board with the first special teams miscue of the night when Caleb West grabbed an interception after an errant snap on a punt. West scored from 10 yards out on the return, and the extra point gave Hampton a 7-6 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, West stopped a Cloudland drive with his third interception of the night, while the Cloudland defense forced a three-and-out. The next Cloudland drive saw another errant snap go past the punter and through the endzone to record a safety.
On the next drive, Hampton saw Jerry Lunsford race 39 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 17-6. After a Cloudland three and out, Dylan Ford found Jared Wiltshire for a 27-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 16 points.
However, Cloudland wasn’t done. Whitehead cut into the lead with a 59-yard touchdown run, and then he hit Preston Benfield for a six-yard touchdown pass with the two-point conversion closing the gap to two points.
The ‘Landers were unable to take advantage of recovering the onside kick, but forced Hampton to punt on the next drive. Cloudland got into field goal range, but missed with 27 seconds left allowing Hampton to kneel and take the victory.
Adam McClain recorded 85 rushing yards, while Lunsford had 60 yards. Whitehead led the way for Cloudland with 265 rushing yards.
Both teams will await their playoff brackets which will be announced on Saturday.
“The defense played great. Cloudland is a good team. We didn’t want to make mistakes and kept from trying to do something crazy. That was the first game that (Dylan) played quarterback in his life in varsity, and we didn’t want to put too much on him.”
“It helped having Adam back. He blocked as well as he ran. A lot of kids just kept fighting and wouldn’t give up. Things looked bleaked a time or two. I told them before the game that there was going to be a time when it didn’t look good and there would be negative things going on just like in life. Winners get knocked down just like losers, and the only difference is they get up and fight again.”
-Hampton Head Coach Mike Lunsford
“I am proud of our kids. They played hard and they are going to play hard. I am proud of the way we came back. We gave up nine points on punt team. We tried to mix it up a little bit, and had some things going for us. We just tried to keep them off balance and I think we were able to do that. It is the mistakes. We are going to get ready for playoffs. Our goal is to win a state championship and we are doing to do everything we can to make that happen.”
-Cloudland Head Coach Brock Pittman