'Dogs set sights on West Greene

By JAMIE COMBS
Sports Editor

   In Hampton's last two football games, the Bulldogs have been to their overall performance what a hot iron is to a pair of polyester slacks. They left no ugly wrinkles.
   Coming off back-to-back impressive victories, the 'Dogs (1-1, 4-3) will try not to stray from this golden path when they welcome the West Greene Buffaloes (0-3, 2-5) for Hampton homecoming in a Watauga Conference clash this Friday night.
   "West Greene always plays us hard," said Hampton coach J.C. Campbell, whose club will wrap up a playoff berth with a victory. "I don't know if it's us or them, but we almost always struggle with West Greene. We went down there in '96 -- we had B.J. (Taylor) and them -- and had to come from behind to beat them."
   This could be a tricky spot for Hampton, which followed up a win at Unicoi County by conquering Unaka 44-6 last week.
   While its record doesn't look very good, West Greene could easily be a 4-3 football team right now. The Buffaloes have a pair of 1-point losses to their credit, and played Chuckey-Doak to a 0-0 halftime tie before dropping a 21-0 decision.
   "Naturally you think about those things, but you can't dwell on them or they'll drive you crazy," said coach Barry Carter, his Buffaloes still not eliminated from playoff contention. "As 'Bear' Bryant once said, 'If it could've been it would've been.'
   "We just want to finish out the year as strong as we possibly can."
   West Greene features a fair amount of offensive talent, led by the all-around ability of Josh Jones.
   Ranking among the Watauga leaders in rushing (204 yards), receiving (141 yards) and scoring (42 points), Jones is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 20.1 yards per catch while scoring six touchdowns and booting six extra points.
   Quarterback Josh Dearinger (353 yards passing, 195 rushing) and receiver Michael Franklin (7 catches, 150 yards) round out a productive West Greene trio.
   "They're like us," Campbell said of the Buffaloes. "They have some pretty good football players, but most of the time they don't have enough of them. They usually have some players thrown in that aren't the quality they would like, but they always have some quality players."
   Franklin paces the West Greene defense with three interceptions, but pass coverage isn't at the heart of Carter's concerns.
   Asked what would be pivotal to his squad's chance of victory, Carter said: "Stopping the run. That's been our Achilles heel all year. We know that Hampton will try to run over us, and they will until we prove we can stop them.
   "Offensively we've done OK. On the whole, we've moved the ball pretty well. We've got some skill people who have done a good job."
   Centered around the likes of tailback Michael Peterson (127 yards rushing, 3 TDs vs. Unaka) and fullback Jeremy Hall, Hampton's offense benefits from the complementary work of quarterback Mitchell Morton, receiver-runners Mel Ramey and Corey McKinney and tight end Josh Nave.
   Different people have been stepping to the Bulldog defensive fore, evidenced by last week's 12-tackle, 3-sack effort by Sean Moody and Dustin Crumley's 47-yard TD on an interception return.
   The renewed presence of senior defensive lineman Matt Shankel gives the 'Dogs a needed lift. Returning from an early-season injury, Shankel harvested six tackles in roughly two quarters of play against the Rangers.
   According to Campbell, Hampton still has work to do in the area of, "Just trying to play with more consistency and play a little harder for a little longer period of time. We seem to be going along that road."
   It helps that the 'Dogs are going about their business this season in a more dedicated manner.
   "They're more serious and more focused," Campbell said. "They seem to be a little more able to learn from their mistakes."
   Said Carter of Hampton: "I believe they clone people up there. They always look the same and basically do the same things. We know what's in store for us. J.C. and his staff do a marvelous job and we expect a real dogfight. I know they'll play hard and hopefully we will, too."
   Action starts at 7:30.