TSSAA Class 2-A Semifinals… They never quit… Bulldogs rally in final quarter to defeat Trousdale County

Published 12:51 am Saturday, November 27, 2021

BY NIC MILLER
STAR STAFF
nic.miller@elizabethton.com
The Hampton Bulldogs were back in JC Campbell Stadium on Friday night after their dominating performance against Oneida last week, this time taking on the Trousdale County Yellowjackets in a state semifinal match-up, with the winner booking a ticket to Chattanooga for the 2021 TSSAA Blue Cross Bowl.
The fourth round of the playoffs was one that the Bulldogs were used to, competing in but never winning four contests in school history, one of those coming in 2005 against the Yellowjackets where Trousdale County held Hampton to no points in a 35-0 victory.
This season, it was time for the Bulldogs to flip the script.
The rematch began as a defensive contest, something Hampton is not used to in the playoffs as neither side was able to make their way into the end zone for most of the first period.
The first score finally came with half a minute to go in the quarter when quarterback Conor Jones would push his way across the goal line from one-yard out. Levi Lunsford attempted the two-point try, taking the ball into the end zone to put the home team up 8-0.
In the second quarter, Trousdale County came up with an answer with Bryson Claiborne finding pay dirt from 15-yards away. The Bulldog defense stood tall, however, as the two-point conversion would be stuffed, making it an 8-6 advantage for Hampton with six minutes to go until the break.
And that would conclude the scoring efforts from either team in the first two quarters of play with both squads combining for 14 points heading into the third quarter.
Trousdale County answered first in the third stanza, as on their first play from scrimmage Brian Banks caught the option pitch at his own 23-yard line and race 77 yards down the field for the score. This time the two-point try would be successful making it a 14-8 lead in favor of the Yellowjackets.
Only 13 seconds later, the visitors would add six more on the ensuing kickoff after a Chance Point fumble was recovered by Claiborne, scooping the ball and scoring from 31 yards out. The two-point try was no good, but things began to look bleak for the Bulldogs.
But as Bulldogs head coach Michael Lunsford has said all season, Hampton never quits. It was a statement that held true in this state semifinal game as well as the Bulldogs did not allow another point in the contest.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs were not able to get anything going either, being held scoreless for the remainder of the third and half of the fourth quarter.
Hampton’s offense came back to life with 6:41 remaining in the game as the Bulldogs marched down the field on a drive that would be capped off by Lunsford from two yards out, making it a 20-14 deficit for the home team.
And after a huge three and out caused by the Bulldogs defense on the next possession, it was Hampton ball once more, this time from their own 35. It was nothing but big gains as Jones and Lunsford were able to convert time after time on chunk plays.
With less than a minute to play, Jones would find the promised land once more while also tacking on the two-point try to give his team the late lead, 22-20, with 49 seconds left in the contest.
Bulldog fans could be the only thing heard inside the stadium but the Hampton defense had to stand tall once more to earn a shot at a gold ball.
After a huge sack on second down to make it third and 30, Point would redeem himself with an interception at midfield leaving Jones and the rest of the Hampton football team to take one knee and prepare for the state championship winning by the slim margin of 22-20 to make it to the final round of the TSSAA 2-A state playoffs for the first time in school history.
In the win, Jones ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns on the night on 26 carries, while Lunsford rushed for 57 yards and one touchdown on 17 total touches.
For Trousdale County, Banks finished with 75 yards and one score on two carries, while the entirety of the Yellowjacket offense accounted for 114 yards.
Lunsford spoke on what this win and the opportunity to play for a state title means to the team and the community, saying, “I could not be prouder of these kids, because there is no quit in them. You start the fourth quarter down 12 points, and these guys don’t bat an eye.
“This is for not just us, this is for the community, the past players, it’s for everyone. This place has a tradition, and everyone that has came before has helped build this. I couldn’t be prouder of the team, the coaches, the community, and everyone involved,” Lunsford said.
“These guys just take it one play at a time,”  Lunsford said about his team coming back to score 14 unanswered and claim victory. “We talked all week about the only play that matters is the next play, and these guys just kept fighting for what they wanted.”
Hampton will play in the TSSAA Blue Cross Bowl on Saturday at 3 P.M. against Westview High School at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.