Bulldogs open season with Pigeon Forge

Published 9:52 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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For the second straight season the Hampton Bulldogs open with the Pigeon Forge Tigers. Last season the ‘Dogs came away with a 20-16 victory and was the first of six consecutive wins to open the 2022 season.
“We have opened with them for two years now and it’s tough,” Bulldogs head coach Michael Lunsford said. “You don’t always know what teams down around Knoxville are like because we don’t see them much. They are a good football team and will be a challenge.”
The Bulldogs return a core of solid football players on the front line and at skill positions. Senior quarterback Dylan Trivett comes off a sound junior campaign leading Hampton to a 9-3 record including a 32-0 shutout over Oneida.
“Dylan has come a long way,” Lunsford said. “Last year, he cut his hand and it took him several games to be as good as he could be. We have had two scrimmages and I liked what we did. We showed some power running and some spread offense and we have a lot of kids that have experience and have played in games. I think we will be a faster team this year.”
Pigeon Forge finished 6-6 last season but had a 48-0 win over West Greene in the TSSAA first round playoff before falling to Alcoa in round two.
Pigeon Forge lost senior Aiden Littles who rushed for an average of 127.8 yards per game and scored 22 touchdowns (20 rushing) but has Aiden Howard stepping in. Howard rushed for 77 yards per contest and scored 10 touchdowns.
The Tigers have Wyatt Howard at quarterback returning for his sophomore season and as a freshman Howard had three touchdown passes and scored five rushing touchdowns. The Tigers play a spread offense with an emphasis on the run game and that is something the Bulldogs will have to contend with.
The ‘Dogs come into the 2023 season having scored an average of 35.5 points per game and have the necessary firepower to repeat those numbers with Chance Point and J.J. McElyea at wide receiver and Geno Carrico at tight end.
The running back position – manned the last two seasons by Levi Lunsford – will be a bit different this season as none of the current RBs have the power Lunsford demonstrated.” Levi was real good for us,” coach Lunsford said. “We don’t have his short yardage power this year, but I think we’ll be faster and more elusive.”
Sophomore Peyton Townsend is listed at running back along with fullback Grayson Young but versatile junior Dominique Burleson could see some snaps at running back along with his WR duties.
“Peyton has got some promise,” Lunsford said. “He’s young but he has good speed and we’ll work him in. Dom is very fast and has good bursts. Dylan has showed a lot so far and I think this season will be the best version of himself. He has shown good leadership and has had a good preseason.”
Jamie Turbyfill at center and sophomore Jayden Kuhn will anchor a solid front line but it is a young squad that may take some time to come together but Lunsford has confidence that they will gel quickly.
Game time is 7:30 pm.

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