County rivals in big contest Thursday

By Wes Holtzclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtzclaw@starhq,com

    This week, the top rivalry in Carter County meets for the second time this season in what could possibly be the game of the year.
   The top ranked Cloudland Highlanders and the sixth ranked Hampton Bulldogs enter the contest with their highest combined rankings since the 1996 season, when the two teams were both undefeated.
   At a time when rivalries seem low in this county, all one must do is look back to 1995 when Cloudland and Hampton played a classic four overtime contest which the Bulldogs won 18-12.
   WIth an impressive game that season, the talent on the field showed that there was more in the future, and on Campbell Field in 1996, perhaps the best teams in Hampton and Cloudland history met in a game for the books.
   Although Hampton won the contest 14-0, each team would eventually support three All-State players a piece, as well as a combined four Mr. Football finalists (Hampton's B. J. Taylor and Steve Tolley, Cloudland's James Tolley and Robbie Turbyfill).
   That week, Hampton was eighth ranked, while Cloudland was fifth ranked. The game was close all fourth quarters, with Hampton's Taylor scoring both touchdowns, including a fourth quarter shot to put the game away.
   Cloudland had their chances with a Jeremy Gouge 66-yard punt return for a score, which was called back on clipping, with two interceptions from Turbyfill. Jason Davenport led the game defensively with 15 tackle for the 'Dogs, but the big men up front in Steve Tolley and James Tolley were perhaps the most impressive.
   By the season's end, Hampton remained undefeated holding as the second best team in the state, while Cloudland was ranked third in 1-A in the year before the Division II program was developed in the TSSAA, and our schools were facing against legally recruiting programs.
   Hampton lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion private school Knox Webb 28-19, in a game which they should've won. Cloudland was dropped by current UT star Troy Fleming and private school Battle Ground Academy, just two seasons before Fleming entered the record books as the greatest back in state history.
   We can only wonder now what might have been, as a Hampton win would've possibly given them an amazing shot at a state championship.
   BGA lost a close game to Donelson Christian Academy who overwhelmingly won the state title, leaving many people questioning whether Cloudland would've won their championship if the private schools had've been removed that year.
   Now onto this year's game with a top ranked and sixth ranked match-up building forward with Cloudland topping Hampton 42-14 during zero week this season.
   Hampton will be out for blood in this contest, posting an undefeated record since the contest, leading region 1-2A after an impressive showing last week against South Greene.
   Michael Peterson and Mitchell Morton have been excelling offensively for the Bulldogs, while Jimmy Sarrett and Robby England's defense have held their opposition in key.
   Cloudland comes into this game after a close contest against now eighth ranked Powell Valley. The Highlanders practiced in full pads on Monday for the first time all season in preparation for the Bulldogs.
   For Hampton to win this contest they must do three things: Stop Mark Byrd, weasel around the Cloudland secondary, and beat them in the trenches. Cloudland must continue their rushing defense, protect the pass, and pound the football offensively against the 'Dogs.
   I believe it will be a close contest with both teams pulling out their best efforts. Cloudland will be the heavy favorite, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Hampton pull the upset in this one.
   My pick however: CLOUDLAND 32-18
   OTHER GAMES OF NOTABILITY:
   SULLIVAN CENTRAL AT ELIZABETHTON

   It's no secret that the Elizabethton Cyclones have been playing their best football lately, and with some all-around effort have been putting the points on the board.
   Sullivan Central provides a weaker team than Elizabethton has faced in the past few seasons, and it should be a cakewalk for the Cyclones. ELIZABETHTON 58-21
   NORTH GREENE AT HAPPY VALLEY
   The Warriors are coming off of two hard losses against very solid programs in Rockwood and Gatlinburg-Pittman. They enter this game with a solid looking shot at building towards a possible second place finish in the Watauga. HAPPY VALLEY 42-16
   CHUCKEY-DOAK AT UNAKA
   Chuckey-Doak lost to the only team Unaka has defeated all season long. If the Rangers come out with the fire they showed against Cosby, they will dominate the Black Knights for their second win of the season. UNAKA 32-20
   TENNESSEE HIGH AT JOHNSON COUNTY
   Look out Longhorn fans, the two weeks of conference torture is almost over. Tennessee High currently sits aboard the leaderboard in the conference, and will probably bring their big game to Mountain City this week. TENNESSEE HIGH 48-12
   WESLEY'S OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: JOEY PARLIER, UNAKA
   Parlier rushed 26 times for 126 yards in Unaka's loss to North Greene. Be on the look out for a strong game this week from the Stoney Creeker against Chuckey-Doak.
   WESLEY'S DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: ROBBY ENGLAND, HAMPTON
   England recorded eleven tackles and three sacks in Hampton's huge conference victory over West Greene this past week. He was listed as Honorable Mention in this week's AP Selections.
   WESLEY'S LINEMAN OF THE WEEK: CLOUDLAND OFFENSIVE LINE
   The Cloudland offensive line crew paved the way for 363 yards on the ground against Powell Valley this past week in Cloudland's 44-24 victory. They will be depended on in the coming week for the Highlanders against Hampton.
   THIS WEEK'S PICKS
   BGA 36, Knox Catholic 18
   David Crockett 24, South Greene 12
   Greeneville 54, Morristown East 23
   Morristown West 38, Volunteer 14
   Daniel Boone 44, Unicoi County 28
   Gatlinburg-Pittman 28, Sullivan North 15
   Sweetwater 40, Coffee County 10
   Gerrmantown 38, Hamilton 20
   Greenback 28, Oneida 12
   Midway 22, Oakdale 14