'Dogs set to tangle with upstart 'Horns

Photo by Dave Boyd
Hampton receiver Eric Swain

By Jamie Combs
Sports Editor
Here are three simple reminders: Change the oil in your automobile every 3,000 miles, always make sure the iron is unplugged before you leave the house, and never underestimate the prowess of a J.C. Campbell-coached football team.
Even though Campbell's Hampton Bulldogs are off to a sputtering 0-2 start, Johnson County coach Mike Atwood won't be lured into thinking his team can relax when the Longhorns (2-0) and 'Dogs get together at Paul H. McEwen Stadium on Friday night.
"He's going to be ready for us," Atwood said of Campbell. "He always has been. I just expect a tough game, and we'll have to play well to win. There's no question about it."
Another reason Atwood disregards Hampton's early-season record is that the 'Dogs have played a pair of brutally tough contests.
"They probably play as tough a schedule as anybody in any class," Atwood said.
After opening with a 38-13 loss to Cloudland, currently the state's top-ranked team in Class 1A, the 'Dogs dropped a 49-18 decision to a powerful Division II foe in Knox Catholic.
"We were certainly playing good competition -- two excellent football teams," Campbell said. "I'm sorry we're not good enough to play with them."
While there's no doubt Hampton's competition was strong, Campbell acknowledges that his team just hasn't played up to par.
According to the Bulldog skipper, players have expressed the desire to get things headed in the right direction.
"The ones I talked to felt bad about the way they played and want to rectify," Campbell said. "They seem to have the attitude that we've got to beat this, and got to do better."
Going against an upstart Johnson County club, the 'Dogs may have to wait at least another week to follow through on those plans.
Saddled with less-than-high expectations during the preseason, the 'Horns thrashed West Greene 38-6 in their opener, then registered a huge 13-7 Mountain Lakes Conference win over Sullivan Central in overtime.
"Johnson County has just done a super job," Campbell said. "They've got a pretty solid football team. They do stuff pretty well -- block and tackle. That's what they're supposed to do."
With his team coming off a 1-9 season, Atwood couldn't have asked for a better beginning to the 2003 campaign.
"Coming off of last year, at the beginning it's very important to restore the confidence of our kids," Atwood said. "Us having five or six sophomores that start has really helped because they're young and they didn't know what to expect. The losing season last year didn't hurt their confidence as bad, but as a team we had to get off to a good start."
Four Longhorn seniors were terrific in the first two games, with Daniel Cranford and Adam Johnson (15 tackles vs. Central) starring on the defensive line, Jeremy Cornett totaling six catches for 88 yards and Ian Prudhomme going 6-for-6 on extra-points, booting a field goal and making a TD reception.
According to Atwood, senior leadership has been a pleasant surprise for Johnson County.
"I kind of had a few questions about how our seniors are going to lead the team, and they've really stepped up," he said.
A couple of Johnson County sophomores have made an impact on the offensive side of the ball. Speedy tailback Tony Smith has rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Jeff Brinker has passed for 118 yards and two touchdowns while adding a pair of TDs on the ground.
Hampton is devoting much of its time trying to get senior quarterback/safety Mitchell Morton ready for Friday night's contest. Morton re-aggravated an ankle injury in the Knox Catholic game, leaving him unable to perform the final quarter and a half.
The Hampton coach expects to have his field general ready for action.
"It's just a matter of getting a little more soreness out of (the ankle)," Campbell said. "He might not be able to do all the things he can do, but there's a whole lot he will be able to do."
Morton is a player that greatly concerns Atwood.
"We've got to contain that quarterback," Atwood explained. "I know he's been banged up a little bit, but we're going to gameplan for him and see if we can control the quarterback."
Furthermore, said Atwood, the 'Horns must hold Hampton receiver Eric Swain in check, and slow down the 'Dogs' off-tackle running game as well as their blitz.
Led by a 14-carry, 90-yard performance by fullback Justin Waycaster, who followed the sound blocking of linemen Brandon Bowling and Adam Potter, the 'Dogs did muster an above-average showing vs. Catholic in the rushing department, gaining 192 yards.
Look for Zack Crabtree, who carried six times for 33 yards vs. the Irish, to possibly see more time at tailback. Dustin Crumley comes off a good game at defensive end, where he recorded a team-high seven tackles.
Asked what the 'Dogs have focused on during this week's practices, Campbell said: "Just trying to do everything a little better, a little more right and a little more consistent. No drastic changes or anything like that."