Late rally propels 'Dogs past 'Horns

Photo by Rick Harris
Hampton tailback Zack Crabtree tries to fend off Johnson County's Adam Johnson.

By Jamie Combs
Sports Editor
MOUNTAIN CITY--If Hampton's offense had been the key on the end of Ben Franklin's kite, tailback Jacob Moss would have made the perfect lightning bolt.
Breaking loose for an electrifying 58-yard, fourth-quarter run, Moss ignited a come-from-behind victory for the Bulldogs in high school football activity on Friday night. Beating Johnson County by an 8-7 score for the second straight year, Hampton prevailed at Paul H. McEwen Stadium.
"I kept it going and used a spin move," Moss said of the run, which pushed the 'Dogs from their own 29-yard line to the Longhorns' 13. "I had good blocking on the play. I cut back to the right and it broke open for me. That guy who caught me was fast."
Speed merchant Ernie Hodge was the only man who could keep Moss from scoring, but two plays later Hampton (1-2) struck paydirt on an 8-yard run by tailback Zack Crabtree, slashing what had been a 7-0 Longhorn lead to 7-6 with 3:44 to play.
Bulldog coach J.C. Campbell, in a repeat from last season's Hampton-Johnson County game, then faced the choice of either going for the tie or the lead (and ultimately the win).
Just as it did a year ago, his decision to go for the two-point conversion paid off as fullback Justin Waycaster, after taking a handoff, powered the football just across the goal line.
"My mind was made up," said Campbell about the two-point call. "I didn't come up here for any moral victories. I hadn't even thought about overtime.
"If you are ahead, the other team has to make the bigger plays. If you are tied, they can go out there and play around and try to win in overtime. If they're behind, they've got to try to do something."
Its hand being forced, Johnson County (2-1) responded by making the 'Dogs hang on for dear life. The 'Horns drove down to set up a 38-yard field goal attempt by Ian Prudhomme, but the kick was blocked with five seconds remaining.
"He hates it," said Longhorn coach Mike Atwood, referring to Prudhomme. "I hate it for the whole team, but especially for Ian. He wanted to kick it -- he wanted the chance. He said, 'I won't miss it,' and it was headed right down the center, it looked like to me."
Leading an up-the-middle Hampton surge, sophomore Jonathan Potter came up with the block.
"I just got mad and busted through the line," Potter said. "We weren't going to let this one slip away."
Driving 65 yards on eight plays after receiving the second-half kickoff, Johnson County took its lead on a 4-yard TD run by tailback Tony Smith, then a Prudhomme PAT.
Daniel Cranford's punt block offered the 'Horns the chance to cushion that lead in the final period. However, a 38-yard Prudhomme field goal try with 8:26 remaining sailed wide right.
Hampton set itself up for two good scoring opportunities that failed to produce points.
The first opportunity, which came during a Bulldog-dominated first quarter -- the 'Horns had the ball for three plays in the quarter -- was sabotaged by two fumbles and three penalties. The first penalty wiped out all but 15 yards of a 59-yard run by Crabtree, and the other infractions occurred after Hampton had gained a first-and-goal situation at the 3.
Cody Walsh's 27-yard field goal attempt, which went wide to the right, signaled the end of the possession.
After the 'Horns put their seven points on the board, the 'Dogs manufactured their second opportunity, marching from their own 28 to the Longhorn 12, where they faced a fourth-and-3. At that point Johnson County rose to the occasion as Jeremy Gerace sacked Hampton quarterback Mitchell Morton for a six-yard loss.
When the 'Dogs failed to move the chains on their next two possessions, their outlook was starting to look less and less promising.
Even when Moss intercepted a Jeff Brinker pass on Johnson County's next-to-last possession, Hampton still needed to march 74 yards for a touchdown, and less than six minutes were left in the game. Two plays later, Moss came to the rescue with his long run.
"That was the difference," Campbell said of Moss' big-gainer. "I told them over on the side, 'For us to score, we're going to have to make a long run or a long pass. We're not going to be able to drive that thing down there, because we're making too many mistakes.' Statistics show that if you start on your own 20-yard line, you score about 20 percent of the time. So you've got to have a long run or something to get it down there or you won't make it."
Atwood offered his take on the final minutes of the contest.
"I feel like if our defense would have held or we could have just gotten a first down on offense, we were still in pretty good shape," he said. "They broke that long run. I'll have to look at the film, but I think we had him tackled and the sucker just put his hand down and stayed up. They wanted (the game) worse than we did. Give credit to that running back and give credit to their team. They just beat us.
"They wanted it more on the two-point conversion. Waycaster is just a tough kid. We had him tackled, he put his hand down and stayed up. It was just a great run. He deserved the good run because he played his guts out. They deserved to win."
Aided by the solid line play of Seth Clawson, Adam Potter, Eddie Lance, Johnny Price and Brandon Bowling, Waycaster proved to be a force in the running game, gaining 102 yards on 17 carries. Moss added 72 yards on five rushes as Hampton amassed all of its 224 yards on the ground.
Defensively for Hampton, linebacker Sean Moody showed the way with 10 tackles. Waycaster and Donny Singleton contributed nine stops apiece, Dustin Crumley, Adam Potter and Lance each chipped in seven tackles, and Brandon Barnett excelled in pass coverage.
According to Moss, the win provides the 'Dogs, beaten by a combined score of 87-31 (vs. Cloudland and Knox Catholic) in their first two games, a fresh start.
"It's a boost," Moss said. "It gets us ready for the conference. We got rid of those first two games -- those were really tough teams. Johnson County had a tough team, but we're getting ready for the conference."
Campbell could afford to breathe a sigh of relief as the 'Dogs loaded the bus to go home.
"We played two good teams to start the year and got the crap beat out of us," Campbell said. "You can play Notre Dame, and if you don't play well you start doubting yourself. Playing somebody that's equal caliber there, we see we can do some things, and we can build on that."
Smith was the main man on offense for the 'Horns, rushing 19 times for 87 of the team's 131 rushing yards. Using Jeremy Cornett (4 receptions, 49 yards) as his main target, Brinker completed 6-of-10 throws for 54 yards.
Adam Johnson played a highly-productive game at defensive end for Johnson County, collecting 16 tackles and a sack. He was followed by Gerace (12 tackles, 1 sack), Cranford (10 tackles, 1 sack), Tommy Gregg (9 tackles, 1 sack) and Sam Reece (9 tackles).
Atwood, though, basically dwelled on team results.
"We got outplayed and outcoached," he said. "That's the bottom line. Our kids weren't ready and their kids were. They were hungry for a win and we weren't.
"We'll be ready for next week. I can promise you that."