'Dogs catch fire to beat Warriors

By Jamie Combs

   There's an old Santana song called "Nowhere to Run." Hampton tailback Michael Peterson no longer relates.
   Rushing 27 times for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Peterson served as the leading catalyst for Hampton's 34-20 victory over Happy Valley in an intense Watauga Conference football game atop Warrior Hill on Friday night.
   "Michael runs so hard for his size," Hampton head coach J.C. Campbell said of the senior player. "The poor little feller had to start when he was a freshman. He didn't know what he was doing and took a beating. It's his turn (to shine)."
   Eating up 111 yards on the ground in the second half, Peterson helped the 'Dogs (1-0, 2-1) come back from a 20-8 second-quarter deficit and secure what figures to be a big piece of the conference championship puzzle.
   "I had some good coaching on that," Peterson said. "(The coaches) told me I needed to step up, be a leader and talk to the team more -- and that's what I did. We came out and did better in the second half. We worked hard in practice and definitely had a good bonding experience this week. We came out here and showed them what we can do. Hopefully, we can be conference champs."
   Mitchell Morton's two short TD runs, Eric Swain catching four passes for 51 yards and Hampton holding the Warriors (0-1, 1-1) to 65 yards of second-half offense served as additional highlights in the Bulldog effort.
   For Happy Valley, which lost to Hampton for the third year in a row, defeat was tough to take.
   "The kids are crushed, they're hurt," said Warriors head coach Stan Ogg. "Football is an emotional sport, and they're hurt right now. They're resilient and they'll bounce back. We'll look for some positives, but Hampton outplayed us. They just did a better job."
   Through most of the first half, it looked as if it was going to be Happy Valley's night.
   Two Bulldog TDs -- Justin Waycaster's 67-yard return of the opening kickoff and a 48-yard run by Corey McKinney -- were negated by penalties before Happy Valley ever touched the football, then a lost Hampton fumble set up a 6-yard scoring run by Warrior quarterback Lamar Rollins.
   With Casey Shatley's extra point, Happy Valley led 7-0 at the end of the opening period.
   The 'Dogs answered with a 2-yard TD run from Peterson, who also ran in the conversion attempt for an 8-7 Hampton edge.
   Some strong running by Tim Whaley and Rollins, though, enabled the Warriors to immediately march down the field and score again, this time on a Whaley 4-yard run. Another Shatley PAT made it 14-8.
   Seemingly unfazed, the 'Dogs were soon back knocking on the door. However, when Jordy Harrison shot through the line to cause a Bulldog fumble, linebacker Cody Cannon scooped it up and raced 72 yards for a touchdown and 20-8 Warrior lead.
   "Things were looking bad and we could have given up," Campbell said. "We were playing pretty well and we were behind."
   Less than three minutes from intermission, the 'Dogs were determined not to go to the locker room quietly. Removing the cork from its passing game, Hampton moved into scoring position when quarterback Morton found Swain for completions of 22 and 15 yards.
   "I really think the turning point for us was little Swain in there catching the ball," Campbell said. "He spread them out a little bit and they had to start backing off."
   Two plays later McKinney scored on a 7-yard end-around run, and Hampton trailed by six points (20-14) heading into halftime.
   "It would have been good to be up 20-8 instead of 20-14 at the half, but we had the ball to start the second half," Ogg said. "We had the ball there, but we turned it over and that hurt. That's part of football."
   Fumbling away the ball on the opening play of the third quarter, Happy Valley could see its momentum slipping away. Peterson instantly ripped off a 49-yard gain, setting up Morton to plunge across the goal line on a 1-yard sneak. Morton hit McKinney for the conversion as Hampton grabbed a 22-20 advantage.
   "When we fumbled that first play from scrimmage, that just lit their fire," said Cannon.
   Happy Valley's next set of downs saw a fourth-and-1 gamble from its 25-yard line end in a three-yard loss, then Peterson carried three straight times to reach paydirt. He scored from 10 yards out.
   "We all had to dig down deep and pull this one out," Peterson said. "We were down a little bit at halftime, but we showed what Hampton can do. The line did well, and I want to thank all of them for that. I couldn't do it without them."
   Driving 51 yards in 10 plays, the 'Dogs won themselves a little breathing room when Morton mustered a 1-yard TD run to start the fourth quarter. The Warriors did make a scoring threat late in the contest, but McKinney prevented a probable touchdown by tipping away a Whaley halfback pass intended for James Matherly.
   "We played hard," Campbell said. "The boys that went in and played one or two plays here and there made a play. We just got after them."
   Spearheaded by Adam Potter (10 tackles), the middle of the Bulldog defensive line turned in an exceptional outing as Robby England (7 tackles) and Eddie Lance (5 tackles) shared in thwarting the Warriors' inside running attack. Jimmy Sarrett played a productive game at linebacker, recording 10 stops.
   For the Warriors, Whaley picked up 100 yards rushing on the strength of 13 carries, while Rollins, nursing an injured shoulder that left him unable to use his regular throwing arm (right), rushed 11 times for 56 yards. Rollins' only pass attempt was left-handed and fell incomplete.
   "He played his heart out," Ogg said of Rollins. "He wants to go every play."
   Cannon topped the defense with 12 tackles, followed by freshman Ryan Garland with eight hits.
   Despite the setback, Happy Valley appears quite capable of a solid season.
   Asked if the Warriors will do a good job of regrouping, Cannon replied: "I hope so. This is a tough loss because everybody knows this is probably the conference decider right here. We need to go watch the film Monday. We need to bounce back and get stronger, and we need to get some people healthy because we had a lot of injuries tonight. Hopefully, we can bounce back against Elizabethton and play a hard game."
   The Warriors go to Elizabethton their next game, while Hampton plays its home opener vs. Johnson County.