ELIZABETHTON — It was the Happy Valley running back duo, not Hampton’s highly touted pair which shined brightest Friday night on Warrior Hill.
Jaylon Simmons rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, and Zack Ball added 123 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries to lift the Warriors to a 35-21 non-conference victory over the Bulldogs.
“We just ran hard because we knew this was an important game,” said Simmons. “We just practiced hard for this game and put all our hearts into it. This win got our season back on track.
“It feels good and everybody is going crazy. We felt we really deserved this tonight.”
It was the second straight season which Happy Valley (5-4) knocked Hampton (8-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten, and the first game of the season which head coach Larry Shively felt the Warriors, who had eight plays of 15-plus yards, played up to their potential.
“If you run hard and block and take care of the football, good things will happen to you,” Shively said. “It did tonight.
“We came off the football and we had a great week of practice. I’m happy for our kids, but that’s what we can do when we set our minds to it.”
It was a sobering loss for the Bulldogs, who came into the game ranked No. 2 in the latest Class 2A poll. Hampton’s star running back duo of Phillip Waters and Justin Adkins, still ended with 100 and 77 yards, and the Bulldogs held a 407-373 edge in total offense. But with the Warriors’ Zack Miller and Landon Baker shooting through the gaps, the Hampton pair was able to get on track only for moments in the second half.
“I thought they just physically whipped us on the line,” Hampton head coach Mike Lunsford said. “Their front seven or eight whipped our front seven or eight. When they were running the spread, we were keeping eight in the box and they still ran by us.”
Hampton opened with an impressive 12-play drive, capped off by Adkins’ two-yard dive, for a 7-0 lead. Happy Valley responded with a six-play drive of their own, with Simmons going down the left side 25 yards for a tying touchdown.
The Warriors took the lead on their next possession with Simmons busting up the middle and going 64 yards for a 13-7 HV lead.
Hampton retook the lead on its next possession with a drive highlighted by a pair of long pass plays from Lane Smith to Eddie Olvera. Smith scored on a four-yard run and an extra-point by Olvera gave the Bulldogs a 14-13 advantage.
Later in the quarter, Zack Ball broke free on a 75-yard run down the left side for the go-ahead Warrior score. A two-point conversion from Seth Davis to Christian Mathes made it a 21-14 lead at the half.
The Warriors put together an impressive drive to open the second half with Ball rumbling 22 yards on the final play for a 28-14 lead.
Hampton responded with a drive of its own later in the quarter, with Adkins bowling over Seth Davis, ala Herschel Walker over Bill Bates, in an 18-yard run to cut the lead to 28-21.
In the fourth quarter with Hampton driving toward a tying score, Ball picked off Smith’s pass at the 30-yard line and ran it back 33 yards.
Four plays later, Ball scored his third touchdown of the night with an eight-yard cut through the Hampton defense.
“It wasn’t just me. It was our offensive line and our defense stepping up when we needed to,” Ball said. “It was us coming together as a team and everybody being leaders.”
Smith was Hampton’s offensive leader with 167 passing yards and 50 rushing yards. Davis, also contributed heavily at the quarter back position for Happy Valley with 74 passing yards and 40 rushing yards.
Happy Valley will try to wrap up a playoff berth Thursday with a Senior Night contest against Johnson County. The Bulldogs will play another huge rivalry game against Cloudland, also on Thursday.