Cloudland braces for Hampton in ‘backyard brawl’
Published 2:20 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023
The annual backyard brawl that is Cloudland versus Hampton will take place on Orr Field on Friday night in what is now a non-conference clash.
In an ultimate bragging rights game, the fact that it is a non-conference game should not and does not matter, as each and every player on each respective side wants to win this game in the worst way.
“Our focus is on understanding what we have to do to put ourselves in the best position to win,” Highlanders head coach Zac Benfield said. “Our DBs and safeties are going to have to be willing to come up and make big hits to stop the run. This is a big game for every player and we will have to match Hampton’s intensity.”
Cloudland (2-2 overall) comes off a 47-24 loss to Johnson County – a team Hampton handled by a 32-26 score – and a win would set the stage for four conference games in the second half of the season.
Senior RB Kyle Birchfield is the team’s leading rusher and will be counted on heavily if the ‘Landers hope to pull off an upset win. Birchfield had a pair of touchdowns in the loss at Johnson County.
For Hampton (3-2 overall), who are riding a two-game win streak after a pair of tough early losses, this could be a ‘trap game,’ but head coach Michael Lunsford sees it as an opportunity to measure his team’s growth.
“This is a growth process,” Lunsford said. “It’s an opportunity for us to see which players we can count on. I think we have players that want to play hard. That game at Pisgah made us better. We had chances in that game against a very good opponent and even though we lost, we learned a lot about ourselves.”
The Bulldogs boast a thunder and lightning run game with Geno Carrico and Dominique Burleson and they have shown they can score from anywhere on the football field. The ‘Dogs scored a 69-28 win over conference foe Cumberland Gap with Burleson taking the opening kickoff for a touchdown and youngster Peyton Townsend scoring on a 57-yard scamper.
“We are going to have to make tackles in space,” Benfield said. “For us to stop the run we have got to make tackles in open space. Hampton has a lot of speed and size and when their backs come through the line we have to be able to make sure tackles. Hampton is well coached and disciplined. Dylan Trivett is a stud and we have to focus on keeping him penned in.”
Trivett has made strides in his senior season at quarterback and Lunsford thinks his best days are ahead of him, saying, “Dylan has been phenomenal. He is poised and never gets rattled. I am proud of how he stands in the pocket and makes throws, even though he knows he is going to take a lick. He is still raw, but he continues to get better. These teams know each other very well, we are neighbors and both teams are almost a mirror image of each other. The fans know each other and it is a real good atmosphere.”
Game time is 7:30 pm.