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Hampton, Cleveland Rams run wild on Garner Friday night

Cleveland running back Omarion Hampton (28) holds the ball up as he crosses the goal line for a first-quarter touchdown during the Garner Trojans’ football game at the Cleveland Rams on Friday, August 30, 2019.
Cleveland running back Omarion Hampton (28) holds the ball up as he crosses the goal line for a first-quarter touchdown during the Garner Trojans’ football game at the Cleveland Rams on Friday, August 30, 2019.

How good was Cleveland’s offense during a 56-33 win over Garner Friday night? Omarion Hampton, who Garner had no answer for in the first half, didn’t get in the end zone in the second half and the Rams still won by 23.

Hampton, the sophomore running back, scored five touchdowns in the first half, and when the Trojans kept him contained in the second half, Cleveland (2-0) just found other ways to get in the end zone. That’s been the story of the Rams since the school opened in 2010 - score points in bunches, watch teams run out of gas trying to keep up.

That was the case once again Friday night as Garner (1-1) tried to go point for point with Cleveland, but didn’t have the firepower to match the Rams. Few teams ever do.

“We have a tradition of scoring a lot of points, Rams’ coach Scott Riley said. “Yes, it’s clicking, Coach (Joe) Capps does a great job calling the plays and these guys have a good mix of talent, plus they really practice hard. They care about each other and that’s a special ingredient to put up 56 against a really talented football team.”

Hampton (21 carries, 127 yards) was the star of the first half. The 208-pound back had touchdown runs of 4, 10, 9 and 1-yard and caught a 79-yard pass from Skyer Locklear (16-25-311) for another score. On the catch and run, Hampton caught a screen pass from Locklear at the line of scrimmage and race the rest of the way to the end zone. Last season as a reserve back, Hampton rushed for 334 yards in 11 games. This season he will be the workhorse and if Friday night’s game is any indication, he will be a problem for opposing defenses for a long time.

“Omarion is a special talent and can do a lot of things,” Riley said. “He’s the straw that stirs the drink for the offense and a lot of things feed off of that. When he has a great big half, it’ll open up things for other players in the second half.”

Riley was correct. Hampton was quiet in the second half, but Locklear, also a sophomore, threw for three touchdowns to three different receivers - Jacquez Durham, Isaiah Sawyer, Nick Roccia - in the second half.

That was a combination of two things - the spread offense and Garner focusing on stopping Hampton.

“They loaded the box the whole night to take him (Hampton) away,” Riley said. “There’s no secret of his talent, so they came in the game doing that. We did a good job executing on the perimeter to open up some things.”

Hampton thanked his offensive line for opening up holes in the first half, and was more than happen to watch his teammates find the end zone in the second half.

“It was like the whole team was working together,” Hampton said. “It was a team effort.”

The Cleveland defense, often overlooked by the offense, made its presence felt. The Rams forced five Garner turnovers, all four coming after the first quarter. Defensive back Jonathen Dewalt had two of the four interceptions.

The Trojans led early, 7-0, after scoring on their opening drive - 21-yard run by Aundre Henry - and tied the game at 14 on a 3-yard run by Derrick Alston, followed by a successful two-point conversion.

Garner tied the game at 21 after a 31-yard touchdown pass from Daveon Dunn to Russell Sanders. After the teams exchanged interceptions, Hampton scored his final two touchdowns of the half to put the Rams ahead 35-21 at the break.

The Rams led by as many as 28 in the third quarter, thanks to a harassing defense and the entire team getting in the scoring act. If Cleveland can score 50 and force five turnovers, the Rams will be tough to beat.

“That was the game plan, to get them out of first and second down, run heavy,” Riley said. “And get them in a situation where they were throwing the football. (Dunn) threw the ball really well in the first half, but the law of averages worked in our favor.”

Dunn had two touchdown passes to Jones Bennett Sean in the second half to cut into the Cleveland lead. But Hampton set the tone in the first half, then watched his teammates get in on the scoring act in the second.

“I felt like we could spread it around a lot more once we figured out their defense,” Hampton said.

Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.