'Dogs set to battle Buffs


SPORTS EDITOR


  Squirrels gathering nuts for the winter. Bugs splattering on your windshield. Roosters crowing at the crack of dawn. Bill Cosby's love for JELL-O pudding. Churches handing out brown-bagged treats at Christmas time.
  Some things in life are automatic. Add West Greene coach Barry Carter's unpredictability to the list.
  "The thing about Barry, you don't know what to expect," said coach J.C. Campbell, whose Hampton Bulldogs play Carter's Buffaloes in Region 1-2A football action tonight at Jim Sauceman Field in Mosheim. "We know what he's been running and so on, but he's liable to change and come out with something else this week."
  In a game that's been moved up from Friday night due to weather concerns, Hampton (0-0, 1-2) will look to end a two-game losing streak and get its league schedule off to a good start. Clobbered by a beastly schedule in its first four games, West Greene (0-1, 0-4) needs a win worse than the 'Dogs.
  "West Greene, most of the time, has been tough for us down there," Campbell said. "Back in '96, we had that good team and went down there and struggled to beat them. I don't know why it's usually tough for us down there, but I don't look for anything different."
  After watching his team suffer lopsided defeats to Rutledge (4-0 record), currently tied at No. 6 in the state 3-A rankings; Happy Valley (3-1), currently the state's ninth-ranked team in 2-A; and 4-A schools Johnson County (3-0) and Cherokee (3-1), Carter said it's "hard to say" whether or not it's fair to judge his team at this stage.
  The combined record of the teams the Buffaloes have faced is 13-2.
  "That's a pretty formidable task," Carter said. "Whether or not we could have beaten any of those teams, I don't know. In two or three games, I felt like we could have given a little better effort than what we did. We're continuing to work on that. If it takes us 10 weeks, we're going to stick with it."
  The Buffaloes, who went through an 0-4 ordeal against the same opponents last season, did play Happy Valley to a 14-7 first half two weeks ago. Losing 34-7, West Greene stayed in the game until late in the third quarter.
  "They played well against Happy Valley," Campbell said. "Happy Valley had some long runs on them, but they couldn't drive it."
  Hampton hasn't enjoyed the easiest of schedules. After taking on Knox Catholic, now the state's seventh-ranked squad in Division II, and falling hard (40-6), the 'Dogs had to battle Johnson County, and came away with a respectable 20-7 setback.
  "They're tough," Carter said of the 'Dogs. "It's going to be hard to match up with them. Hampton's just a good football team. From what I've heard they don't have a lot of numbers this year, which might hurt them a little bit. That may have hurt them a little bit against Johnson County. They may have gotten a little tired in the second half.
  "But Hampton's well-coached and just a good football team. They've been a good football team for years and years and years. I hope we can come out and play a little bit better than what we've played."
  It's true that the 'Dogs are a little low on numbers this season, and injuries have left defensive back Adam Townsend (shoulder) and reserve but key tailback Curtis McKeehan (concussion) doubtful for tonight's game.
  "We're just hoping to improve week by week, then you get into injury situations and you try to hold what you've got, I guess," Campbell said.
  Townsend totaled 13 tackles, tying with linebacker Martin Winters for the team lead, and a sack versus Johnson County.
  On the brighter side, defensive back/tight end Brandon Barnett and linebacker/fullback Jonathan Potter have been playing excellent football for the 'Dogs. Sophomore nose tackle Joe Lee George is showing improvement, and tailback Cody Walsh seems to be building a little bit of lather in the running game.
  The Hampton offensive line had its good moments combating a tough Johnson County defense, enabling the 'Dogs to average a decent 3.8 yards per carry (37-140). Center Travis Mizzell, left guard Winters and left tackle Donny Davis are gradually proving they can complement co-anchors Seth Clawson (right guard) and Johnny Price (right tackle), and freshman guard Steven Roop is demonstrating promise in a reserve role.
  Speaking of offensive lines, Carter is very pleased with his. According to the coach, junior right tackle A.J. Taylor (6-3, 308) is somebody who can go on to play at the college level, and center Justin Bryant (5-9, 240) is providing positive senior leadership.
  "Right now, the offensive line is the highlight for our season," Carter said.
  Injury has limited junior center Travis Bullman (5-11, 190) to one game this season, but he could return to the lineup -- likely at another position on the line -- against Hampton.
  "They've got a good size line," said Campbell of the Buffaloes. "When you've got an offensive line you're proud of, that ain't a bad place to start."
  Mentioning keys to tonight's game for his team, Carter said his running backs need to carry the football with better vision and improve in the blocking department. He also said the Buffalo defense must consistently make plays while keeping its regular players on the field.