Junior Highlanders rally past Hampton

Published 1:16 am Friday, September 11, 2015




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On Thursday evening at J.C. Campbell Stadium the Cloudland Elementary Junior Highlanders used a one-two punch of Connor Birchfield and Hunter Blair to post a 14-8 victory over the Junior Bulldogs.

Blair rushed for 119 yards on 13 carries while Birchfield rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns on just nine tries.

“All I can tell you about Connor is, what’s his last name,” Jr. ‘Landers head coach Kevin Kendall said. “He is a Birchfield, and they know how to run the football. He did a good job. Connor carried us tonight. He made up for our mistakes, and he led his team. He may be one of the smallest in stature but nobody has a bigger heart or better intelligence on the field.”

Hampton (0-3 overall) scored early after taking the opening kickoff and drove 41 yards on nine plays with Matt Hughes scoring on a six yard run. Parker Hughes run in the two point conversion for an 8-0 ‘Dogs lead.

The ‘Landers moved the ball well in their first possession driving from the 34 yard line to Hampton’s one yard line before failing to score on fourth and goal from the one as Birchfield was stopped at the line.

The ‘Dogs were plagued with penalties in this one, with seven flags for 52 yards in penalties called on Hampton.

“Penalties pushed us back on a couple drives in the second quarter,” Jr. Bulldogs head coach Dewayne Humphrey said. “It kind of stalled us out a couple of drives. We didn’t take advantage of the little opportunities we had. You have to hand it to Cloudland; they have a veteran group of kids. They are a tough, hard-nosed football team. They have a great group of athletes.”

Hampton ended the half driving to the ‘Landers 30 yard line after a nice completion from quarterback Garrett Vines to Hughes who did not get out of bounds and the clock ran out before they could line up for a shot at the end zone.

Cloudland took the second half kickoff at the 36 yard line and drove 64 yards in nine plays with Birchfield scoring from 20 yards out. Blair ran in the deuce to tie the game at 8-8 with 3:50 left in the third quarter.

Hampton got the ball in great field position at the 47 yard line but a holding penalty pushed them back to the 37. Hughes ripped off 25 yards on the next two carries to move the ‘Dogs to the Cloudland 34 yard line but one play later disaster struck just before the end of the period.

Vines rolled out to his right to throw to Hughes down the home sideline but Birchfield cut in front and made the interception at the 20 yard line.

Eleven plays later Birchfield rushed in from the 21-yard line to make it a 14-8 lead after he was stuffed on the two point try.

Once again the ‘Dogs were given possession in great field position at the ‘Landers 49 yard line, with under two minutes remaining. Vines connected with Everett Lydick for a 15-yard completion to the Cloudland 28 yard line, but on the next play Parker Hughes fumbled near the home sideline where Elijah ‘Easy’ Blair made the recovery.

“A lot of what Connor did was improvised,” Kendall said. “This was a hard fought game on offense and defense and we knew Hampton wanted us bad. We had to match that and want them just as bad and we saw some things we could exploit. We knew we had to run the ball and we came in pumped for this game.”

For Hampton, Matt Hughes rushed for 42 yards on nine carries, while Parker Hughes ran for 60 yards on eight tries. Vines was 2-for-3 passing for 28 yards but had the costly interception.

Cloudland 14-8

Cloudland 0 0 8 6 – 14

Hampton 8 0 0 0 – 8

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

H – M. Hughes 6 run (P. Hughes run) 4:49

Third Quarter

C – Birchfield 20 run (Blair run) 3:50

C – Birchfield 21 run (run failed) 2:01