'Dogs gun down Unicoi

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   Hampton was nimble. Hampton was quick. Hampton threw the football and made the scoreboard click.
   With junior quarterback Mitchell Morton passing for a career-high 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns on a rainy Friday night at J.C. Campbell Stadium, the Bulldogs gave their fans a different kind of offensive treat while knocking off Unicoi County 32-7 in a non-conference football tilt.
   "It felt good," said Morton about Hampton cutting loose through the air. "The line blocked great. I had plenty of time and everything was perfect. They were trying to stop the run, so we passed it when they didn't expect it."
   Although the weather was perfectly suited for Hampton's more-heralded running attack, that didn't stop Morton, who completed 6-of-9 throws and also ran for a touchdown, from having his most productive passing game in a Bulldog uniform.
   "The ballkeepers kept (the ball) good and dry," Morton said. "I had a dry ball in there every two plays."
   Eric Swain and Michael Peterson hauled in lengthy scoring receptions and Zack Crabtree accounted for a couple of TDs on the ground for Hampton (5-1), which outgained the Blue Devils (1-4) 383-115 in total offense and came within 29 seconds of a shutout.
   Hampton seized a 6-0 lead at the end of its first possession. Blowing past Unicoi's coverage, Swain never had to break his stride as Morton hit him with a beautiful 36-yard scoring toss.
   "The play right before that touchdown pass nobody at all came out on me, and we missed it" said Swain, who finished with 71 yards on two receptions. "We couldn't get the signal called quick enough. We noticed when we were in 11 and 12 formations, with two (receivers) on one side and me on the other side, they didn't have a safety back there. So with man-to-man coverage over here, I just beat them deep.
   "I just outran my man and Mitchell threw a perfect pass. The big thing was the line giving him time to throw the ball all night long."
   Later in the quarter, a botched punt attempt by Hampton gave the Devils the football on the Bulldog 37 and a good chance to answer Swain's TD.
   After moving inside the 10, the Devils were facing a fourth-and-goal situation from the 6. Unicoi quarterback Hunter Sparks then rolled out to his left, but Dustin Crumley was in hot pursuit and dropped Sparks for an eight-yard loss.
   "We made some good plays down there," said Hampton head coach J.C. Campbell. "It could have been a different ballgame. The defense has played pretty well for us. We've bent some, giving yardage and stuff, but I've been pretty proud of the defense."
   Taking back over on offense, the 'Dogs went on a 14-play, 86-yard drive that Morton capped with a 6-yard scoring run to the outside. He followed by punching in the two-point conversion, putting Hampton up 14-0 with 3:31 to go until halftime.
   Hampton, though, decided it wanted to score one more time before intermission, and needed just two Morton completions to get the job done. Swain started with a 35-yard grab, then Peterson, using a nifty cutback, made it to the end zone on a 43-yard reception with 27 seconds showing on the clock.
   The score was 20-0 at the break.
   "For this weather and so on, I thought we threw and caught the ball exceptionally well," Campbell said. "If they are going to put eight or nine people on the line, we about have to pass."
   Added Morton: "If you can throw it in bad weather, you can throw it anytime. It's a lot easier to throw it in dry weather than it is in rainy weather. In rainy weather, the ball is usually slippery, you have to make sure you get the ball from the center, then you have to watch your footing when you plant."
   With Hampton's air attack causing Unicoi's defense, which crowded the line of scrimmage through much of the first half, to loosen things up, the 'Dogs were able to feature their running game during the second half. They got points in return as Crabtree scooted to paydirt from 14 and 23 yards out in the final period of play.
   "That passing game opens up the field a whole lot," Swain said. "We need it going into the playoffs. We don't have to do it as much, but as long as it's in their minds that we can do it, it will scare a lot of teams when we get in there. They won't be able to key on Michael as much. Michael's the big player in our offense, him running the ball, and Jimmy (Sarrett) did a real good job tonight of running the ball north and south. He runs hard and Mikey does, too."
   Trailing 32-0, the Devils avoided a shutout when Thomas Britt caught a 13-yard scoring pass from Sparks with 29 seconds remaining. Emmanuel Mendoza kicked the extra point.
   Britt led the way for Unicoi's offense, rushing 10 times for 51 yards and catching four passes for 40 yards.
   Peterson paced the 'Dogs on the ground with 84 yards on 18 carries, while Sarrett carried 14 times for 53 yards.
   Robby England was tops for Hampton in tackles with eight, followed by Justin Waycaster and Sarrett with seven apiece. Cornerback Kevin Harrison turned in a sound performance on pass defense, and Crabtree added an interception.
   "I'm pretty well pleased," said Campbell. "Erwin's coming on."
   The 'Dogs don't play again until Oct. 11, taking on Unaka at home.