Promising starts for sophomores Oliver, Townsend

  By Jamie Combs
  SPORTS EDITOR
  jcombs@starhq.com
  Hampton sophomores D.J. Oliver and Adam Townsend gained their first starting assignments in the Bulldogs' 28-8 season-opening, Week Zero win over Cloudland, and they spent the night flying to the football like Japanese beetles to a rose garden.
  Racking up nine tackles apiece, Oliver, a 5-10, 195-pound defensive end, and Townsend, a 5-5, 150-pound defensive back, tied junior linebacker Jonathan Potter for the team lead in that all-important statistical category.
  "That's great," said Hampton coach J.C. Campbell. "That just shows that if the other team is running the ball at certain places, whoever you've got there can make the tackle."
  Oliver also recorded Hampton's only quarterback sack in the contest, and Townsend contributed to the 'Dogs' solid pass defense.
  While Oliver is a little undersized for his position, and Townsend is simply a little undersized for the game of football, they're both tough as a pine knot and possess above-average skills. Perhaps the thing that stood out about their play against the Highlanders was their sheer aggression, which is often hard to find in underclassmen.
  "They're very aggressive for sophomores," Campbell said. "They're both hard workers -- both hard workers in the weight room. Some of the older ones don't do nearly as much as they do, so I'm glad something good happened to them."
  Shifting the focus to Potter, he raised more than a few eyebrows with his performance in Week Zero. In addition to his nine tackles, the first-year starter proved to be a threat from the backfield, rushing seven times for 39 yards and two touchdowns.
  Asked if Potter is one of Hampton's most improved players this year, Campbell replied: "I guess he is. I hadn't really thought about him, but he did a good job the other night."
  Another new regular, tight end/defensive end Lucas Roark, also looked much improved. The junior caught a 16-yard Zack Crabtree touchdown pass and harvested seven tackles.
  n Chances are, unfortunately, that senior Jacob Moss has played his last down of football for the Hampton Bulldogs.
  Moss, who didn't return to the game after injuring a knee at the end of his 46-yard catch on the first play of the second quarter, learned this week that he has a torn ACL.
  Campbell isn't 100 percent certain that the player is lost for the season, but he isn't counting on his return.
  "We'll find out something Monday, but it doesn't look good," Campbell said. "I hate it for the little old kid. He was trying so hard, you know, and was doing so well."
  In addition to his long reception, Moss had 26 yards on five carries, returned a punt for 24 yards, and made a tackle from the secondary.
  n The question marks surrounding the interior offensive line don't go away in one game, but the work of Seth Clawson, Travis Mizzell, Johnny Price, Donny Davis, Martin Winters and Steven Roop left room for encouragement in that area.
  "They played better than what I thought they would," Campbell said. "We messed up in practice, so if you mess up in practice you think you're going to mess up in the game. And we did mess up some in the game. We missed a block here and there that was unnecessary, but I was pretty pleased with them."
  Winters was a late addition to the main core, giving the 'Dogs a needed extra man.
  n Another good sign from the opener was junior defensive back Brandon Barnett grabbing an interception.
  Barnett demonstrated excellent coverage skills last season, but was never able to hang on to the ball when interception opportunities came his way. If his Game 1 snag wasn't a fluke, expect him to collect at least a half-dozen pickoffs this year.