Hampton is no doubt fielding one of its best middle school football teams ever, but met its match on Thursday night.
Cloudland visited J.C. Campbell Stadium and pounded the Bulldogs 20-0 in Little Watauga Conference action. The Highlanders (3-0) rushed for 357 yards, and limited Hampton (4-1) to 48 on the ground.
The Highlanders’ Colby Birchfield rushed for 192 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Austin Whitehead picked up 126 yards on nine touches and one TD, while also recording 13 tackles.
“We have to execute a little better,” Cloudland coach Randy Birchfield said. “We turned the ball over, fumbling from the snap, and too many penalties. But our defense played real well.
“Austin Whitehead was a horse. He played really well on both sides of the ball, ran hard. Our other backs got long runs there. Colby played pretty well on offense, but now Austin was leading the way.”
The Bulldogs were stopped on downs the game’s opening drive. After an 11-yard gain from Birchfield, Whitehead cut loose for a 63-yard touchdown and Birchfield’s conversion made it 8-0.
“They ran the ball good,” Arnett said. “We just got a couple of guys out of position, on a few certain plays, and that’s what happens when you get one guy out of position. It takes all 11 guys to play.”
Hampton punted. The first play of the second quarter, Cloudland coughed up a fumble and the Bulldogs’ Dylan Nelson recovered.
Hampton had mounted a seven-play drive, but quarterback Coby Jones was sacked by Peyton Brock to end that threat.
Birchfield opened the ensuing possession with a 30-yard gain. Whitehead followed with a 9-yard pickup and Birchfield had a 10-yard run, before the Highlanders were stopped on downs.
“Our linemen did a better job the second half,” Coach Birchfield said. “The first half we allowed too much penetration. We just didn’t get off the ball, but Hampton played their hind-ends off.
“Coaches did a great job. Hampton was very prepared for what we were going to do, their kids played extremely well, they were very-well coached during the game and they were very-well coached to get ready for this game.”
An eight-play drive to open the third quarter was capped by a Birchfield 22-yard scoring jaunt. The conversion pass attempt failed and it was 14-0.
Jones completed a 14-yard pass to Chris Miller in the fourth quarter. The nine-play drive got nowhere.
Birchfield broke free for a 39-yard gain. Two snaps later he rambled 39 yards into the end zone to complete the onslaught, after the conversion pass was no good with 44.3 seconds remaining.
“Cameron Stevens on the inside, especially the second half, did a real good job,” Coach Birchfield said. “Those are two pretty good backs. Austin might be the best middle linebacker I have every coached. He’s a stud.”
Birchfield recorded six tackles. Brock was in on four stops.
Hampton’s Adam McClain rushed for 62 yards on 14 carries. Making four tackles each were Jones, Ethan Markland, Chris Holtsclaw and Jake Lyons.
“We’ve made a lot better improvement this year, though,” Arnett said.