For 20 minutes, it had all the makings of a shootout. However, Hampton showed its’ horsepower was too much.
The Bulldogs used two crucial plays late in the second quarter to take a 12-point lead at the half en route to a 56-30 victory over Cloudland on Friday night at J.C. Campbell Stadium.
Hampton improves to 5-0 with their 12th straight win over Cloudland, while the ‘Landers move to 4-2 on the year.
Cloudland opened the game by moving the ball. After a Colby Birchfield recorded a long run, senior Austin Whitehead dived into the endzone from a yard out to put the ‘Landers up 8-0 early. The Bulldogs answered quickly as Coby Jones found Jerry Lunsford for a 42-yard pass, and the two-point conversion tied the game with 5:30 to play in the quarter.
Cloudland was forced to punt on their next drive, and Hampton wasted no time striking back. Lunsford was on the receiving end of his second touchdown of the night when he caught a 41-yard pass from Jones, but the two-point conversion was unsuccessful. The ‘Landers moved into striking range to open the second quarter.
On fourth and one, Whitehead picked up a bobbled snap and ran 16 yards for the touchdown. Noah Arnett picked the two-point conversion to hand CHS a 16-14 advantage.
The Bulldogs, however, wasted no time in jumping back in front as Lunsford broke free for his third score of the night with a six-yard touchdown. Lunsford added the two-point conversion for Hampton.
Cloudland answered the call again on fourth down as Birchfield ran for a 46-yard touchdown to push the ‘Landers back up 24-22. With 5:08 to play in the half, McClain capped an impressive drive with a six-yard score to edge the Bulldogs back to a 28-24 lead.
After Cloudland was stopped on fourth down in Hampton territory, Hampton moved down the field as Jones hit JJ Chambers to move into Cloudland territory, and a 12-yard McClain touchdown gave Hampton a 36-24 advantage at the half.
In the third quarter, a Hampton drive stalled as Cloudland jumped on a fumble. However, the ‘Landers were unable to take advantage as they were held on fourth down at the Hampton 30.
Lunsford and the Bulldogs took control as Lunsford ran into the endzone from 12 yards out with 5:25 to play in the third quarter. That gave the Bulldogs a 42-24 lead entering the final quarter.
Jones found his way to the end zone from 23 yards out, and Lunsford added a one-yard touchdown for the Bulldogs in the final quarter.
Whitehead recorded the lone Cloudland score in the fourth with a six-yard run that saw him shrug off a pair of tacklers.
Hampton was paced by Jones as he recorded 212 passing yards and added 131 on the ground. Defensively, the senior added 10 tackles.
“We went back and forth for a long time, but we got a fourth-down turnover and it was important to them,” Jones said. “We were talking to each other how we had to get that stop. We stopped them and it turned the momentum.”
Lunsford ended the game with six catches for 127 yards. The running back also added 95 rushing yards and finished with five total touchdowns. Chambers tallied 53 receiving yards, while Hunter Davenport had 35 receiving yards.
“They’re good football players and our line did a good job too,” Hampton coach Mike Lunsford said. “I didn’t realize LJ had five touchdowns. That’s a good game. But, we ran the ball well, threw the ball well. Offensively, we know what we’re going to get out of Coby and know what we’re going to get out of LJ and what we’re going to get out of Adam.”
Defensively, McClain had eight total tackles, and John Cole had 5.5 tackles. Bailey Johnson and Lunsford had four solo tackles apiece.
“I felt like we could have played better defense,” Lunsford said. “I give Cloudland a lot of credit as Coby and Austin are great backs, and we have two or three kids that can compare with them. There wasn’t a whole lot of defense played on either side. We have to play better defense to do what we want to accomplish.”
Cloudland saw Whitehead record 181 rushing yards, and Birchfield added 65 yards. Malachi Benfield took snaps at quarterback for the ‘Landers, and hit Dakota Ashley for a nice 15-yard pass.
“We made freshman mistakes,” Cloudland Brock Pittman said. “I am excited we put 30 points on those guys because they are really good. We just don’t have the depth to stay with people who has those kind of numbers.”
Birchfield and Arwood had five tackles apiece, while Peyton Brock recorded three tackles in the game.
“I am proud of them,” Pittman. “We have tough kids, but we can’t keep up with teams like this one. They played more kids last week then we have on our roster. It is what it is. I am proud of my kids.”
Hampton held a 559-377 yardage advantage over Cloudland. The ‘Landers were 3-of-7 on fourth down for the game – with two of those conversions for touchdowns.
Both teams return to conference play with road trips next Friday as Cloudland will go to Unaka and Hampton will visit Happy Valley.