Bulldogs stop losing streak to Highlanders


SPORTS EDITOR


  Victory, like the chocolate mints that go on the pillows in five-star hotels, was especially sweet for the Hampton Bulldogs.
  Snapping a 10-game losing streak to a fierce county rival, which is exactly what Hampton accomplished versus the Cloudland Highlanders by a 28-8 score Friday night at J.C. Campbell Stadium, accounted for the distinctive flavor.
  "I had about forgot what it felt like to win one with them," happy Bulldog coach J.C. Campbell, whose team had last defeated Cloudland in 1997, said after the season-opening tilt.
  Said Hampton quarterback Zack Crabtree: "My head's so big right now -- I'd say J.C.'s is too. It's unexplainable. They beat us 10 times in a row, so to finally get a win -- that's great. I'm glad we could do it for J.C."
  Riding the passing arm of Crabtree and tenacious defense to a 21-0 halftime lead, the 'Dogs would go on to halt a streak of another kind on Friday night. The 'Landers saw their number of consecutive regular-season victories stop at 26.
  "I thought they were more physical than us," said Gary Keith following his debut as Cloudland's coach. "On this night, they were better than us. The last three drives we played the way we needed to play. That's the way we need to play the whole game. I've got to get these kids in better shape and I've got to get them to play with intensity the whole game."
  Not quantity but rather quality of throws told the story for Crabtree. Going 3-of-3 for 101 yards -- all in the second quarter -- he set up touchdowns with his first two completions, then threw for a TD with his third.
  "Zack threw the ball pretty well," Campbell said. "Of course, if you're throwing it to Moss, you can throw about anywhere and it looks good. He'll go get it."
  The receiver Campbell was referring to is Jacob Moss, and on the first play of the second quarter, he was indeed a go-getter, streaking down the right sideline to grab a 46-yard toss. Tackled at the 1-yard line, Moss (96 all-purpose yards) suffered a knee injury and didn't return, cutting short what was shaping up as a tremendous night for the senior player.
  One play later, Jonathan Potter took a hand-off and muscled his way into the end zone for a 6-0 Bulldog edge.
  On Hampton's next possession, Cody Walsh hauled in a 39-yard Crabtree throw, which led to a nifty 20-yard TD run by reserve tailback Curtis McKeehan on the ensuing play. Crabtree and Gene Sanchez connected for the two-point conversion, with Sanchez making a nice leaping catch and staying inbounds.
  Late in the first half, Lucas Roark made his presence felt for the 'Dogs, grabbing a 16-yard Crabtree toss for a touchdown. A Walsh conversion kick sent the 'Dogs to the break with their 21-point advantage.
  "Walsh and Moss are my two main receivers, and they did a real good job tonight -- I was well-pleased," Crabtree said. "Lucas Roark -- he stepped up tonight. It's his first year ever getting to play, and he did a real good job.
  "My linemen -- I can't say enough about them; they just blocked tremendously. It was great. I had all the time in the world back there."
  Defensively, the 'Landers were devoting a great deal of attention to the Hampton ground game. Keith wasn't expecting his team to get hurt through the air.
  "I guess it's my responsibility," Keith said. "I told them I thought we had to stop Hampton from running the ball, and I thought we did a pretty good job of stopping that. But they had those big, long passes on us and got a couple of scores off of them. We were trying to stop the six and seven hole -- from running that kickout. That's J.C.'s bread-and-butter play."
  As for Hampton's defense, it allowed a mere five yards of rushing in the first half -- the highlight of a solid overall outing by the unit.
  "We played a lot of people (defensively), got a lot of people to hit," Campbell said.
  A Potter fumble recovery deep in Cloudland territory and roughing the kicker penalty helped the 'Dogs expand their lead late in the third period. Potter scored his second TD of the game, getting in on a 7-yard run, then Walsh split the uprights for another PAT, leaving the score at 28-0.
  The hard-churning legs of Jonah Horney made sure the 'Landers didn't go down in shutout fashion. Rushing seven times for 35 yards in a 10-play, 61-yard drive, Horney ran for a 2-yard TD with 9:42 left in the game. A Toby King to Jon Pritchard conversion pass wrapped up the scoring.
  Cloudland had two more possessions from there, but interceptions by Brandon Barnett and freshman Dustin Milhorn gave the ball back to Hampton.
  A team that was hard hit by graduation, Cloudland certainly showed it needs some work. The 'Landers, however, were no disgrace.
  "It's tough to replace the whole offensive line," Keith said. "Like (NFL coaching legend) Vince Lombardi said, the one that tackles the best and blocks the best is usually going to win. Hampton blocked better than us and tackled better than us.
  "We're going to come in Monday and try to improve. I'm disappointed but not discouraged."
  Starting lineman Jonathan Webb displayed some of Cloudland's trademark toughness. Nursing a shoulder injury and originally out of the 'Landers' plans for this game, Webb slugged it out on both sides of the ball, and had six tackles and a blocked punt.
  "It's hurting pretty good right now, but I played with it," Webb said of his ailing shoulder. "I was hoping we would win, but they were just a better team than we were -- more prepared. We're a young team. We should do pretty good next year."
  Pritchard and Horney were highly active for Cloudland defensively, recording 15 and 14 tackles, respectively, with Gary Buchanan harvesting eight tackles and King recovering a pair of fumbles.
  Horney also finished with 19 carries for 92 yards (81 in second half) and one reception for 11 more.
  Outgaining the 'Landers 281-165 in total offense, Hampton got 76 yards on seven carries from the flashy McKeehan.
  In the tackling department, the hard-nosed Potter and feisty sophomores D.J. Oliver and Adam Townsend led the way with nine hits apiece. Oliver also notched a sack, and Johnny Price was a disruptive force on the line.
  Asked whether or not the win sets a nice tone for the rest of the Hampton season, Campbell, who thought his team did an all-around good job, replied: "It sure beats losing. The kids may not know to lose till they do."
  Notes
  * Cloudland's previous regular-season loss was a 27-22 setback to Cherokee in 2001, the year the 'Landers reached the Class 1-A state championship game.
  * Hampton broke a string of six straight defeats in season openers -- three of those to the 'Landers -- ending Cloudland's streak of six consecutive season-opening victories.
  * The 'Landers visit Sullivan East on Thursday night. The 'Dogs take a week off before playing at Knox Catholic on Sept. 3.