Like Father, Like Son: Hampton continues win streak, survives Cloudland upset bid

Published 12:41 am Saturday, September 24, 2016

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips Father and son, Cloudland's Mike Lunsford and Hampton's Michael Lunsford, meet on the field after Friday night's hard-fought contest between the Bulldogs and the Highlanders in Roan Mountain.

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips
Father and son, Cloudland’s Mike Lunsford and Hampton’s Michael Lunsford, meet on the field after Friday night’s hard-fought contest between the Bulldogs and the Highlanders in Roan Mountain.

With the addition of the ‘Lunsford Bowl’ title, Hampton and Cloudland provided another instant classic for the record books.
The Bulldogs survived a scrappy effort from the Highlanders and escaped Orr Field with a 42-38 nonconference victory, moving their win streak over Cloudland to 13 games, and extended their overall record to 5-0 on the year.
Friday’s contest also boasted the first ever matchup between Hampton head coach Michael Lunsford going against his father – Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford.
“Before the game, it was really tough,” Mike Lunsford said. “I couldn’t look at him without crying. I love him so much. I’m very proud of him. But once that game started, it was Hampton versus Cloudland. It was just a football game, and I know he felt the same way. He’s done a great job at Hampton, and I knew that program would be well taken care of. We’ll get this one going, I’ll do a better job.”
The proud father saw his former team strike first with Hunter Davenport (10 carries, 117 yards, 2 TDs) reach paydirt from 20 yards out on a three-play drive to give Hampton the 6-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
But the ‘Landers (2-4) would not back down. With quarterback Preston Benfield (6-of-9, 103 yards, TD/ 17 carries, 51 yards) showing his skills on defense with a sack and interception in the first half, the senior connected with Tristian Lacy from 17 yards out to knot things up late in the second. To counter, Davenport did the damage with a 73-yard kickoff return to give the ‘Dogs the 12-6 advantage at halftime.
“Offensively, we played good in spurts and played bad in spurts,” Michael Lunsford said. “When we played good, we broke those long runs. Adam and Davenport are great runners. You give them a crease, and they’ll run the ball hard for you.”
Tension built up right out of the gate in the second half with Cloudland tailback Noah Arnett (34 carries, 180 yards) busting a nine-yard TD run, followed up by a two-point conversion rush to give the ‘Landers their first lead of the game.
“We’re improving,” Mike Lunsford added. “We’re learning to fight. This was good for us. It ain’t too good for me, but we’re learning to fight, and I’m very proud of the effort the kids gave.”
But the long runs paid dividends for the ‘Dogs with Adam McClain (14 carries, 200 yards, 3 TDs) and Davenport busting runs of 65 and 50 yards to build up a two-possession lead, 26-14, going into the final period.
Hampton quarterback Jason Russell connected with Curtiss Carden on a 28-pass play to set up McClain with a score early in the fourth. The tailback later added his third score, but the ‘Landers continued their climb back with Arnett reaching the endzone at the 3:48 mark. Josh Blair also added a pair of late scores to capitalize on Hampton miscues, but the ‘Dogs were able to escape by taking a knee on offense after receiving the final squib kick.
Both teams combined for six fumbles, and the Hampton head coach added the ‘Dogs will need to refocus heading into a highly anticipated conference clash next week with Happy Valley.
“They outplayed us,” Michael Lunsford said. “They played harder than we did and it meant more to them. We have to learn to give more effort. We’ve got to get better (before Friday).”
In the loss, the ‘Landers were able to see what they need to do for the remainder of the season, the elder Lunsford said, praising the fight of his team.
“I was really proud of them,” he said of his Highlanders. “We made too many mistakes, giving up the onside kicks, fumbles … kicking it to them right before half. That’s my fault, it’s not the kids’ fault at all. Hampton’s got a dang good football team, hardest team I’ve about ever seen.
“We’ve got to eliminate mistakes,” the coach added. “That causes some of it but now, we should be getting over this.We’re nine points from being 5-1. We’ve played six games now and we’ve got to stop making these stupid mistakes and that’s my fault.”

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