HAMPTON — Senior quarterback Lane Smith passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two more to lead Hampton to a 26-12 win over Cloudland on Friday night at J.C. Campbell Stadium.
As a result, the Bulldogs completed a 5-0 run through the Mountain East Conference to win the league championship
championship for an eighth straight year. They finished the regular season 9-1 overall.
“Smith made some big plays on some scrambles,” Hampton head coach Mike Lunsford said. “A couple of times, they turned a guy loose on him, but he did a good job recovering and making some big throws.”
Despite playing without big its two stars for most of the contest, Cloudland outrushed Hampton 268-151.
Running back Taylor Whitehead injured his ankle the night before the game and could not play.
The Highlanders (4-1, 7-3) suffered another blow with 8:50 left in the second quarter when quarterback Jeffrey Rhinehart broke free down the left sideline on a 50-yard run. Tackled by Smith at the Hampton 2-yard line, he was knocked out of the game with a head injury.
With their two stars on the sidelines, the Highlanders’ young players stepped up.
“We played a good football game considering,” Cloudland head coach Brock Pittman said. “Both of our touchdowns were scored by freshmen. I’m proud of the whole team. We went through a lot of adversity this week, but we played well and moved the ball.”
Smith didn’t have his best passing night, just 6 of 16, but he hit enough big plays to tally 185 yards. He also was the game’s leading rusher with 88 yards on 21 carries.
Early in the game and with the Cloudland defense in hot pursuit, Smith scrambled long enough for Chris Ellis to get wide open on a 73-yard touchdown play for a 6-0 Hampton lead.
“There was a hard rush coming and I just tried to roll and get to the outside,” Smith said. “They were coming hard, but my receivers did a great job sticking with the play downfield. When I threw it up, he was wide open.”
On the next possession, Rhinehart made a mad dash down the left sideline. Fired up after the starting quarterback was hurt, backup Austin Whitehead scored on a two-yard touchdown run to tie the game 6-6.
Smith gave Hampton the lead back in the second quarter with a 12-yard touchdown run. The 12-6 score held through the half.
Smith scrambled again to make another touchdown throw in the third quarter. He hit Brady Tolley in the right corner of the end zone on a 21-yard pass for a 18-6 lead.
He added a second rushing touchdown, a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter. Smith then added a 2-point conversion pass to Tristan Robinson for a 26-6 lead.
Cloudland put together a 10-play, 73-yard drive all on the ground for the game’s final score. Colby Birchfield scored on a 1-yard run with 2:59 left on the clock.
Rhinehart, in a little more than a quarter, ended with nine rushes for 81 yards. Austin Whitehead had 19 carries for 86 yards, while fellow freshman Birchfield added 15 rushes for 57 yards.
Mason Carnett posted a game-high 15 tackles for the Highlanders, and Robinson led the Bulldogs with 14 stops.
Ellis was the game’s top receiver with four catches for 153 yards.
Up front, the Bulldogs were led by lineman Bo Dugger with 10 tackles.
“He did what he’s done all year,” Lunsford said. “He does a great job. He’s one of the better linemen that I’ve ever coached, someone who you depend on. He made a lot of big plays when we had to have them.”
The teams now wait their playoff matchups to be announced today by the TSSAA. Both Hampton and Cloudland are expected to host first-round games.