Blue Devils stop Bulldogs

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

  On Friday night at J.C. Campbell Stadium, the Hampton High football team was a cross between an award-winning symphony orchestra, and an aspiring musician learning to play the clarinet.
  Hitting notes that were perfect and hitting notes that were sour, the Bulldogs, in their homecoming game, wound up dropping a 14-12 decision to the Blue Devils of Unicoi County.
  "Too many mistakes," said Bulldog coach J.C. Campbell, giving his take on why his squad went down in defeat. "That was some of the sorriest tackling I've ever seen in the first half."
  Campbell also acknowledged the good in Hampton's performance.
  "We came out in the second half and had a good drive there, and stopped them a time," he said. "We played a good ballclub -- as good or better than we are -- and they have a lot more players. I thought we hung tough. Somebody has got to win and somebody has got to lose."
  Down 7-0 at halftime, the 'Dogs (2-3) came of their locker room aroused and ready to play the second half.
  Getting the ball at the start of the third quarter, Hampton went on an authoritative 10-play, 72-yard drive that ended with quarterback Zack Crabtree sneaking across the goal line from the 1. The extra-point attempt failed, leaving the Devils (2-3) clinging to a 7-6 advantage.
  Three plays later, the momentum shifted completely in Hampton's favor as Seth Clawson recovered a Unicoi fumble at the Devil 4. The 'Dogs then handed off to fullback Jonathan Potter two straight times, and Potter scored on a 1-yard plunge to give his team a 12-7 edge.
  Unicoi, however, was ready to retaliate, starting with Saul Delgado's 48-yard return to the Hampton 48 on the ensuing kickoff. Seven plays later and near the end of the third quarter, sophomore Ryan Scott, who shares the quarterback duties with senior Hunter Sparks, ran 13 yards for the winning TD.
  Emanuel Mendoza added the second of his two PATs on the night.
  "We had one series there that sort of fizzled, and we didn't get anything done," said Unicoi coach Drew Pettit after the Devils snapped a three-game losing streak to Hampton. "Then all of a sudden, it was like we flipped a switch and we decided we wanted to go score. We took the ball down the field and got it in the end zone, and those were such big points right there."
  A 19-yard pass from Scott to Thomas Evely on fourth-and-5 from the Bulldog 43 kept the march alive.
  Not done fighting, the 'Dogs had a couple of nice chances to pull the chestnuts from the fire in the final few minutes of the contest.
  The first opportunity came about when freshman Jarred Irick stormed into the Unicoi backfield and caused an errant pitch that teammate Brandon Barnett converted into a fumble recovery at the Unicoi 31. Hampton, though, failed to move the chains when Potter was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-2 run up the gut.
  "That was probably the play of the game right there," Pettit said of the Unicoi stop.
  With Cody Walsh's strong kicking leg at his disposal, Campbell was hoping to at least get his 'Dogs in favorable position for a field-goal try.
  "We might should have tried it then, in retrospect," Campbell said.
  Still, Hampton was able to regain possession at midfield with 2:29 to go. But the 'Dogs' final offensive appearance lasted just one play as Aaron Saylor grabbed a diving sideline interception at the 23, ruining a Crabtree pass intended for Walsh.
  Saylor then ran out the clock by converting two first downs on four carries.
  "If you let J.C. stay around, he's liable to pull a rabbit out of his hat at any point," Pettit said. "For Aaron to make that interception over on the sideline ... he's come so far and I'm so proud of him.
  "We got defensive stops when we had to have them."
  Early in the first quarter, after a bad Devils punt snap put Hampton's offense inside the Unicoi 30, the 'Dogs worked their way to the 3, where they faced a third-and-2 situation. Hampton, however, was penalized five yards for a false start, and Sparks stepped up from the secondary to snare an interception at the 1 on fourth down.
  The 'Dogs were inside the Unicoi 30 two more times in the first half, but turning the ball over on downs and a Delgado interception smothered the threats.
  "When you get down there, you've got to put it in," Campbell said.
  A 13-yard scoring jaunt by fullback Daniel Bishop, capping a 9-play, 72-yard march, provided Unicoi the lead in the second quarter.
  Sparks, who also played some tailback, paced the Devil offense by rushing 12 times for 106 yards (7-103 in first half). Saylor had 54 yards on 10 carries, and Evely caught three passes for 45 yards.
  As for the 'Dogs, they received a whopping 16 tackles from linebacker Martin Winters.
  "I guess we kind of came out with our heads big," Winters said. "We didn't really practice as hard as we should have this week. We kind of goofed off -- we need to get out of that. We did really well the second half; other than that, it was a hard game. There's not much more I can say. I tried my hardest."
  Adam Townsend contributed 10 tackles for Hampton, with Lucas Roark and Potter harvesting nine and eight, respectively. Potter made a fumble recovery, and Gene Sanchez picked off a pass.
  Offensively for Hampton, Walsh amassed 16 rushes for 70 yards, and Potter gained 57 rushing yards on 12 attempts. The 'Dogs were held to only one yard through the air.