Hampton Middle loses tight battle with Unicoi County.

Published 12:58 am Friday, September 24, 2021

BY AUSTIN ALEXANDER
STAR CORRESPONDENT
ERWIN – Thursday evening saw a clash of middle school titans and Gentry Stadium was the setting as the Unicoi County Blue Devils welcomed in the Hampton Bulldogs. A tough fight throughout, neither team could seem to pull ahead and out of sight.

Ultimately, the Blue Devils defense stepped up in a big way and edged out the Bulldogs, 30-22.

The Bulldogs would start with the ball and get things going on the ground with Weston Hicks. A couple of nice runs looked to get Hampton moving early, but the offense stalled out, and was forced to punt.

The first Unicoi possession ended quite abruptly with a first play fumble that was recovered by JJ Cable.

Having just received a gift, Hampton hoped to make a better go of it this time on offense. Unfortunately, things were quite similar and a three and out was in the cards. A big punt return would set the Blue Devils up in great positioning.

That’s when the unthinkable happened and on the very first play of the drive, the offense again fumbled with the Bulldogs finding themselves back in possession again.

The offense again couldn’t get firing and after a miscues punt, the Blue Devils took over again in striking distance. This time they made no mistakes and took the opening lead, 8-0.

The Hampton offense finally seemed to be making headway with back-to-back solid runs from Hicks and Connor McKinney, but an interception cut the drive short.

The Bulldogs finally got on the board with McKinney turning defense into offense and returning an interception 54 yards the other way as Hampton leveled the score at 8-8.

A quick strike response from Unicoi gave them the edge as the half approached, but the Dogs weren’t done just yet. On back-to-back passes, one to Cain Barnett for 20 and another to Maddux Wilson for 37 yards and a score, McKinney and company gashed the defense and the score was 16-14 in favor of the Blue Devils at the break.

Unicoi’s opening second-half position was a firm drive that the Bulldogs couldn’t handle and again put the Devils up by 8.

The ensuing kickoff was electric as Peyton Townsend of Hampton took the ball 65 yards in for the touchdown and just like that the game was all knotted up at 22.

Another Unicoi County possession meant another opportunity for the Bulldog defense to step up and shut them down.

Despite tremendous defensive games from Jaylen Burleson, Jamie Turbyfill, and Harlee Mann, the Blue Devils just kept having their number. This time, they found the end zone on what would turn out to be the game-winning rushing touchdown.

The two teams exchanged a couple more possessions before Unicoi County would line up in the victory formation and claim the 30-22 win over the Bulldogs in a terrific game.