England answers call for Hampton defense

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   When the Hampton coaching staff made Robby England a regular part of the team's defensive effort, it was like pouring a bottle of fuel injector into a full tank of gasoline.
   The senior lineman has given the Bulldogs, off to a 3-1 start this season, a performance boost.
   "It's a hoot whenever you get out there and make a tackle and they announce your name over the intercom," England said. "You just get that big energy rush and you want to go do it again."
   Playing his second season as Hampton's starting center, England suddenly found himself in a full-time defensive role during Hampton's 34-20 victory over cross-county rival Happy Valley two weeks ago.
   He made seven tackles and bagged half a quarterback sack against the Warriors, and followed up with a 14-tackle, 4-sack showing that helped the 'Dogs slip past Johnson County by an 8-7 score last Friday night.
   "I always knew I had it in me," England said of his good defensive work. "I played a little bit on defense as a sophomore and I always went in and did what I was supposed to do. There's something about being a senior. I just don't want to lose this year, so I busted through the line and went after that ball as hard as I could."
   With England a key part of the mix, Hampton has surrendered a meager seven points over its last six quarters of football.
   "Robby's actually turned our defense around a little bit," said Hampton head coach J.C. Campbell. "He provides a little quickness there on the nose. We've been lacking that, and he's been making a little penetration, and he's been a big help these last two games."
   England is quick to praise fellow defensive linemen Adam Potter and Brad Hodge, two players who nicely contribute to Hampton's success.
   "It really helps having them hitting their guys hard, making the (opposition) double team them and letting me go free," England said, "or me taking a double team and letting them go through and get a tackle. It's not a one-man effort with us. We all three play our hearts out and give it all we've got out there."
   On offense, England can take satisfaction in knowing he's throwing blocks for the leading rusher (Michael Peterson) and one of the top passers (Mitchell Morton) in the Watauga Conference.
   That's the upside of a dirty job that attracts very little glory and demands his full attention on every play.
   "I've got to know all the plays and where the ball is going every time to help my other linemen out," England said. "I've got to know the count on every play and where I'm supposed to block. You never get noticed blocking at center, but people know you're blocking. J.C. congratulates me and knows I'm doing my job out there -- and that's all I really need."
   Now in the final stage of his high school career, England simply wants to get the most out of the 2002 season and help the 'Dogs achieve a high level of excellence.
   "I don't want to leave it, that's for sure," England said. "This year's my last year, and I know I want to go farther than we have the past couple of years. We can do it if we play like we played against Happy Valley.
   "We know we've got a winning team this year. We've just got to hold it together, and, as J.C. says, not lay an egg."