'Dogs win defensive struggle with 'Horns

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   Unfortunately for Longhorn quarterback Adam Johnson, it wasn't the buzzing of a bee he was hearing through his helmet earholes on Friday night.
   What he did hear was the sound of Bulldog defenders buzzing in the Johnson County backfield, and unlike a bee, which only stings once, Hampton repeatedly stung the Longhorns' offensive ace.
   Tackling Johnson for negative yardage on nine occasions, the Bulldogs, who flirted with disaster in the first two quarters, were able to struggle past the 'Horns by an 8-7 score at J.C. Campbell Stadium.
   "We smelled the blood and just went after it," said Hampton defensive lineman Adam Potter, who finished the night with 14 tackles and three quarterback sacks.
   Lineman Robby England racked up four QB sacks and amassed 14 tackles of his own for Hampton (3-1), which got 11 tackles from linebacker Josh Nave and held the 'Horns (0-3) to just nine yards of offense in the second half.
   It was Johnson County's defense that really put on a show in the first half of play, giving up a mere 28 yards. Furthermore, the 'Dogs nearly took themselves out of the ball game by losing three fumbles and bogging themselves down with a host of penalties.
   "I know we played lousy in the first half, but Johnson County's not a bad ball club," said Hampton head coach J.C. Campbell. "They're a bunch of strong things."
   The 'Horns had the ball in Hampton territory five times during the first half, but only came away with their one touchdown: a 48-yard scamper by Aaron Payne early in the second quarter.
   Ian Prudhoume kicked the extra point to give Johnson County a 7-0 halftime advantage.
   "We felt like it should have been 14-0 at halftime," said Longhorn head coach Mike Atwood. "Maybe another score, but at the very least it should have been 14-0. Our guys have to realize when it's time to slam the door, we've got to do it."
   Johnson County's best shot at "slamming the door" seemed to present itself when Hampton fumbled away the kickoff -- Jason Poteet made the recovery -- right after the 'Horns had taken the lead.
   Muscling their way to the Hampton 21, the 'Horns then tried a bit of trickery as Johnson gave the ball to Michael Reid, who rolled to his left and lofted a pass to the end zone. However, safety Corey McKinney had textbook coverage on the play, and snuffed out the threat with his first interception of the season.
   "Happy Valley tried to pull that play the week before, and Coach (Scotty) Bunton is always on the safeties about not letting anybody behind us," McKinney said. "I just played my position and he threw it right to me."
   Said Campbell: "I felt blessed to only be down 7-0 at the half."
   Offensively, Hampton finally showed signs of life at the start of the third quarter, with quarterback Mitchell Morton leading a march that stalled on the Johnson County 19.
   When Hampton got another chance to score, after tailback Michael Peterson erupted for a 34-yard run to the Johnson County 13 late in the quarter, it wouldn't be denied. A nifty seven-yard by McKinney on third-and-6 made it first-and-goal at the 2, and two plays later, with 11:01 to go in the game, Morton pushed through the middle of the line for a 1-yard TD run.
   Then came big-decision time for Hampton, which had the option of sending Cody Walsh on the field for an extra-point attempt or going for the two-point conversion.
   The 'Dogs elected to go for two, and Peterson got the job done on a sweep around the right side.
   "I felt like we could make the extra point, but I didn't know if we'd get back down there," Campbell said. "If we had forced overtime, I didn't know if we could stop them on the 10-yard line or if we could get in from the 10. I thought we'd better take our chances. Some of the other coaches had input in it."
   Although Johnson County had two more possessions before the end of the game, it failed to mount a serious threat as Hampton's heated pass rush left Johnson with little time to spot his receivers.
   The 'Dogs ran out the final 2:18 with a pair of first downs.
   "We knew at halftime we had to come out and do a lot better on offense and keep the defense up as much as we could," Potter said. "We felt that we could play them and beat them. We just weren't doing the job."
   Not surprisingly, Campbell had a few choice words for his team at the half -- and the 'Dogs responded.
   "We talked all week about not laying an egg," said Campbell, whose team was coming off an emotional win at Happy Valley. "I thought we came back in the second half and played a little better defense and got after them a little better. We took care of the ball a little better."
   Peterson chalked up 98 yards on 17 carries, gaining 80 of those yards in the second half. Morton completed 6-of-9 passes for 73 yards, and Pat Murphey (7 tackles), Brad Hodge (5 tackles, 1/2 sack) and Donny Singleton (4 tackles, 1/2 sack) contributed their best defensive work of the season.
   Payne had a nice defensive performance for the 'Horns, collecting 10 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries. Adam Leonard added nine tackles, followed by Justin Bishop and Matthew Dunn with eight hits apiece.
   "That's a tough (loss) to swallow," Atwood said. "I thought we played hard enough to win and well enough to win. We're friends with these guys down here, but you just hate to get beat by your buddies. A couple of plays here and there and we could've won. They made the plays and we didn't."