Bulldogs enjoy productive two weeks

By Jamie Combs

   Spring football in Hampton this year was like a hot-shingled rooftop after a brief rain shower. The Bulldogs worked up a healthy cloud of steam during the two-week session.
   "This was the best spring we've had in a few years," said Bulldog head coach J.C. Campbell. "We had a lot of baseball players that didn't get to take part that first week, but the second week they got to come in.
   "We had a little inclement weather along the way, but all in all I was pretty-well pleased."
   Coming off a 6-5 season that featured a runner-up finish in the Watauga Conference and a return trip to the playoffs following a two-year hiatus, Hampton started its 2002 on-field preparations with room for encouragement.
   More than 30 players reported for pre-summer workouts.
   "We had good numbers -- the best we've had in awhile," Campbell said. "I like the numbers -- I like having the bodies there.
   "We had several new kids who seemed to enjoy it. This seems to be the thing they want to do. Hopefully, that will carry over."
   Armed with a full squad, the 'Dogs decided to put their skills to an early assignment, getting together with Sullivan East for a scrimmage.
   For Hampton, it was an opportunity to make some nice plays and do a little experimenting.
   "We played fairly well," Campbell said. "We tried to change around a little bit and do some things differently. We looked at that a little bit during the scrimmage. It wasn't anything major -- just some different ideas we took a look at."
   Both leadership and talent will have to be replaced on the Bulldog roster. Gone are four good linemen -- Harry Page, Matt Shankel, Adam Pierson and Jason Humphrey -- a hard-hitting defensive back in Mel Ramey and a rugged fullback in Jeremy Hall, who produced back-to-back 500-yard rushing seasons his final two years.
   When asked if any of his players are stepping up to the table in the leadership department, Campbell gave credit to a pair of forthcoming seniors.
   "Our linebackers, Josh Nave and Jimmy Sarrett, have taken a little bit more of a leadership role," said the veteran coach. "I believe those boys will step up our defense. (Tailback) Michael Peterson, as always, is our leader on offense."
   On the talent side, quite a bit of starting experience returns to the trenches and to the secondary, perhaps putting the fullback position more squarely under the microscope.
   "We ran two or three (fullbacks) in the scrimmage, but we've not found anybody yet," Campbell said. "It's open competition."
   Sarrett showed surges of power as a backup to Hall last season, making him the top candidate to fill the void.
   "Sarrett has gained some weight, so he's a little bit slower," Campbell said. "But if he gets his speed back, he'll probably be the best one."
   Also in the mix are Shaun Julian and Justin Waycaster, a promising twosome.
   Of course, quality football teams aren't made just on the field. It takes an off-field commitment as well, particularly in the area of strength training.
   According to Campbell, the 'Dogs have put forth a solid effort in the weight room.
   "They did this winter," he said. "It was one of the best (efforts) we've had. Whether or not that carries over to this season, we'll just have to wait and see. But they did real well this winter."
   The 'Dogs open their season on Aug. 23 in Roan Mountain, taking on the Class 1-A state runner-up Cloudland Highlanders.