Sarrett helps fortify Bulldog performance

By Jamie Combs

SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   On offense, Hampton senior Jimmy Sarrett plays the role of battering ram out of the Bulldog backfield. Defensively, Sarrett plugs the middle of the football field like a wooden cork in the top of a little brown jug.
   "Jimmy's worked very hard and has made a good name for himself over his four years," said Hampton head coach J.C. Campbell. "He's a good kid to be around. He's good for the boys to be around -- he's good for the younger kids.
   "I've never asked him to do anything he didn't put his heart into."
   One of the big reasons the Watauga Conference frontrunning Bulldogs (2-0, 6-1) are enjoying a resurgence in the sport of football, Sarrett is having his best season in a Hampton uniform.
   "I've done pretty well this year," said Sarrett, Hampton's leading tackler and second-leading rusher in 2002. "I've picked it up a lot these last three games."
   Sarrett has especially upped his performance at fullback over the last three games, showing greater power and strength while rushing for 144 of his 200 yards on the season.
   "I just started running harder," said Sarrett, who scored his first touchdown of the year in Friday night's 46-6 Hampton win over Unaka.
   Said Campbell: "Jimmy got a little bit heavy this year and he's not running as fast as he did last year, but he's coming around now and learning that he has to do it with strength. He keeps digging and usually winds up going forward in the last pile. He gets the extra yard."
   Sarrett tossed in 11 tackles, grabbed the first two interceptions of his career and recovered a fumble from his middle linebacker position against the Rangers.
   He also had a huge performance in the team's 19-14 victory over South Greene, recording 12 tackles and a career-high 62 yards on the ground.
   It was on defense last season that Sarrett made his first significant impact, recording a team-high 88 tackles as the 'Dogs posted a 6-5 record, took runner-up honors in the Watauga and ended a three-year playoff drought.
   "I surprised myself a lot, leading the team in tackles last year and backing up (Jeremy) Hall (at fullback)," Sarrett said.
   This year the senior is leading the way with 59 stops.
   According to Sarrett, it takes a lot of concentration and the taste for a blue-collar style of play to excel at middle linebacker.
   "Just doing what you're told and paying attention to what goes on out on the field," said Sarrett. "It's a hard-hitting position. You've got to be quick at it, too.
   "My freshman year I looked up to (former Hampton linebacker) Cody Vines, and he played his heart out. It's a tough spot to fill."
   From an overall standpoint, Campbell is pleased with Sarrett's defensive work.
   "He's pretty reliable there in the middle defensively," Campbell said. "He struggled a little bit early. Most of that was overrunning the play, but as of late he's just about been where the ball is."
   With Hampton on the verge of its first conference title since 1996, and building high hopes for the playoffs, Sarrett is certainly enjoying the Bulldog success he has helped to create.
   The 'Dogs, no doubt, will be counting on him to deliver a few more sound performances before his career is complete.
   Asked what is his most important contribution to the Hampton cause, Sarrett said: "Just playing my heart out and doing the best that I can."