Bulldogs use big plays to drop Rangers

By Jamie Combs

Sports Editor

   Like a little red firecracker wrapped inside a half-dozen sticks of dynamite, Michael Peterson's 1-yard touchdown run made for the only small explosion during Friday night's Hampton-Unaka football game at Goddard Field.
   The average distance of the other six TDs put on the board was 46 yards, and Hampton did most of the damage to capture a 44-6 non-conference victory over a Ranger team building for the future.
   "They all performed pretty well," coach J.C. Campbell said of his Bulldogs, who scored on offense, defense and special teams. "We looked a little rusty out there for a few minutes -- we had been off a week -- but we played pretty hard after we got a good sweat raised."
   Accounting for three TDs, Peterson covered bigger chunks of real estate on his other two scores by racing to paydirt from 24 and 55 yards out. In limited action, Hampton's elusive tailback rushed for 127 yards on nine carries.
   "It was a good game -- we had plenty of time to prepare," Peterson said. "The line did well. We put together some good blocks, and I felt like I had some running room this week. I felt strong and healthy coming into this game."
   The 'Dogs (4-3) got things going when slippery Eric Swain fielded a Unaka punt near midfield, then started weaving his way through traffic. Fifty-four yards later, Swain was standing in the end zone with the first points of the night.
   "I keep preaching that it's a weapon," Campbell said of the Bulldog return game.
   A Mitchell Morton pass to Mel Ramey on the two-point conversion put Hampton on top 8-0.
   Following Peterson's short TD plunge, Jason Humphrey forced a Unaka fumble that was recovered by Josh Nave, leading to Peterson's 24-yard scoring scamper. Four plays later, Hampton kept it rolling as Dustin Crumley hauled in an interception and scooted 47 yards for a touchdown.
   Said Peterson: "The special teams did well, the defense was good. We had some people step up and make some big plays in this game."
   The 'Dogs led 29-0 at the half. Driving 60 yards on 12 plays, the Rangers (0-7) had an opportunity to get on the board just before intermission, but the clock expired with the ball resting on the Hampton 3.
   Unaka wasn't downhearted, though, to start the third period of play. Little more than two minutes had elapsed when quarterback Brandon Irick, demonstrating good athleticism and above-average speed, slipped around his left end for a 66-yard TD run.
   "That kind of hyped us up," Irick said. "Then they came right back and scored, and it just took us back down."
   On Hampton's next play from scrimmage, Peterson broke free for his longest scoring run of the contest.
   "Peterson always runs hard," Campbell said. "It's harder for those younger (Unaka) kids to tackle him once he gets in the secondary. He looks small and darty, but he runs more straight than he does sideways."
   Cody Walsh booted his fourth extra point of the contest to push the Bulldog lead to 36-6.
   Putting the final touches on the Hampton victory, Corey McKinney ripped off a 30-yard TD run before Walsh, instead of kicking, hit Ramey with a successful conversion pass.
   Rushing for 187 yards on 17 attempts, the 'Dogs only had three first downs against Unaka -- a testament to how the big plays fueled Hampton's effort.
   The Rangers totaled 14 first downs while outgaining Hampton in total offense, 255-195. Unaka chalked up 63 rushes for 253 yards, with Irick (17-96), Tory Morton (19-92) and Joey Parlier (21-60) almost filling the entire load.
   By ignoring any temptations to anticipate the end of a long year, and continue to improve over the last three games, the Rangers, said Irick, can build toward the start of next season.
   "I certainly hope so," said the sophomore signal-caller. "What it's going to take is a lot of work and practice. We're a young team and we really don't have that many big players, but I'm definitely looking forward to next season."
   Sean Moody, who recorded 12 tackles and three quarterback sacks, and Kevin Harrison, adding 10 tackles and an interception, showed the way for Hampton defensively. Jacob and Jeremy Culler contributed eight and seven stops, respectively, while senior defensive back Josh Largent (5 tackles) had one of his better outings.
   "We're definitely getting some momentum," Peterson said. "A win under our belts will make us feel good and let us know what it feels like going into the next game with a full head of steam."
   Jeremy Cook led Unaka's defense with six tackles. Ricky Estep chipped in five hits, and Andrew Richardson got a fumble recovery.