HAMPTON — Lane Smith and Chris Ellis proved to be an unstoppable combination for Hampton against Happy Valley on Friday night at J.C. Campbell Stadium.
The two hooked up on seven passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to a 26-14 victory over their Carter County rivals.
Overall, Smith completed 11 of 17 passes for 259 yards. He also had 15 rushes for 75 yards to wind up with 334 yards of total offense.
“Whenever the line crashed in, I just tried to find space to run outside and look downfield,” Smith said. “If there was something open downfield, I would throw it and if there wasn’t, I would run it.
“I figured it would be hard to run the ball on them. They’re pretty big and good at stopping the run, so I figured we would have to open it up, spread them out and beat them like that.”
Ellis also had a rushing touchdown as he tallied 53 yards on 11 carries to go along with his 163 receiving yards. His one-handed grab and 70-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter gave Hampton all it needed for the win.
“When Lane threw that ball, it hit me in the hand and bounced up in the air somehow,” Ellis said. “I guess God pulled it in for me.”
In addition to his offensive heroics, Ellis had an interception and a team-best 10 tackles on the defensive side. The Bulldogs improved to 8-1 with the victory and gained a measure of revenge against the Warriors (2-7), who had ended their undefeated seasons each of the previous two years.
“Everyone was talking about Happy Valley ruining our perfect season,” Ellis said. “I’m glad they didn’t do it this year.”
Hampton head coach Mike Lunsford added, “That was a big one. Over the years, Hampton and Happy Valley has been a big rivalry. To the kids, it’s lost a little bit of the luster since it’s not a conference game anymore, and they don’t realize how big it is to the communities. To his old-timers, it’s still important.”
Smith led the Bulldogs on an 11-play, 71-yard opening drive. He capped it off by hitting Ellis in the back of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown.
Happy Valley quickly responded on a pair of big runs. Phillip Garland ran up the middle 44 yards and then on a 4th-and-19, Tyler Atkins took a reverse 43 yards for a touchdown.
Hampton scored on its next possession with Smith and Ellis combining on a 27-yard pass play for a touchdown.
Ellis ended Happy Valley’s first drive of the second half with an interception of Colton Haun’s pass. After Smith drove the Bulldogs down the field, Ellis scored his third touchdown, this time on a 2-yard run for a 20-7 lead.
Hampton missed on an opportunity to build on the lead, when Smith’s receiver dropped the ball on a 4th-down play at the goal line near the end of the third quarter.
The Warriors threatened to climb back in the game with a 41-yard pass from Colton Haun to Drew Holsclaw. However, Happy Valley suffered the same fate as Hampton when a sure first down pass was dropped deep in the Bulldogs territory.
Ellis then reached up to haul in Smith’s pass with one hand and then raced past Happy Valley’s defensive back for the 70-yard touchdown.
The Warriors took just two minutes to score on its next possession. A 30-yard touchdown pass from Haun to Tyler Marlowe helped Happy Valley cut the margin to 26-14.
However, the Warriors wouldn’t get the ball back. It was none other than Ellis, who ran for the game’s final first down as the Bulldogs ran out the clock.
Hampton totaled 417 yards of total offense despite the Warriors limiting B.J. Taylor to just 30 yards on 14 carries.
Trey Perkins had 15 tackles to lead the Warrior defense, while lineman Jesse Henley ended with nine stops.
On the offensive side, Haun completed 10 of 15 passes for 153 yards with Marlowe having four receptions for 69 yards. Phillip Garland was the game’s leading rusher with 77 yards on 10 carries.
“Hampton is a great team and coach Lunsford is a great coach,” Happy Valley head coach Larry Shively said. “Smith is a special football player. You can tell some things on tape, but when you get out here and see him, he can play for anybody in East Tennessee. He’s a difference-maker.
“But, I told our kids I love them so much and they’re playing so hard. That’s all you can ask of them. Good things are going to happen because they’re doing things the right way.”
Hampton will host Cloudland next Friday in a battle to settle the Mountain East Conference championship. Happy Valley travels to Johnson County for its season-ender.