'Dogs reap rewards of  key victory

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   MOSHEIM -- When Hampton needed to deliver a game-winning drive, tailback Michael Peterson and the Bulldogs started sucking up yards like loose particles through a vacuum-cleaner hose.
   Peterson's powerful running coupled with some impressive blocking by his line dominated an 11-play, 71-yard touchdown march in the fourth quarter, and lifted the 'Dogs to a key 22-14 Watauga Conference victory over West Greene on Friday night at Jim Sauceman Field.
   "Grab the ball and run straight up the middle. Sometimes that's the best way to do it," said Peterson, who worked between the tackles on the drive, gaining 56 yards on seven carries.
   After Peterson got the 'Dogs close to the end zone, Hampton did slow down long enough to face a fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Following a timeout, quarterback Mitchell Morton faked a handoff to fullback Jimmy Sarrett, then shot through a hole on the ride side for a touchdown that broke a 14-14 tie with 4:19 to play.
   "We'd been going off tackle and they moved their defense and left the middle open," Bulldog head coach J.C. Campbell said. "We just gutted it all the way down the field. We got to the goal line there and ran a little kickout play we've not run very much."
   Morton followed up his scoring run by hitting Corey McKinney for the two-point conversion, then interceptions by Kevin Harrison and McKinney sealed the victory for first-place Hampton (3-0, 7-1).
   Overcoming a 14-8 halftime deficit, the 'Dogs clinched no worse than a tie for the conference championship while securing the Watauga's top seed for the playoffs.
   "That's a great feeling, definitely," said Peterson. "Winning this game is the best feeling of my life."
   Peterson finished the night with 143 yards on 25 carries, and the 'Dogs limited West Greene (2-2, 6-2) to three first downs in the second half as they withstood a stiff challenge from probably the most improved team in Upper East Tennessee.
   For the first time in years, Hampton can feel a real sense of accomplishment.
   "Gosh yeah, a sense of accomplishment," Campbell said. "We've had a down cycle since '96 and '97, and we've been struggling to get back. Poor old Josh Nave and Corey McKinney and Michael Peterson all had to play when they were freshmen. We got beat around and knocked around, and they've stuck it out and got a little fruit of their labor."
   The Buffaloes came in seeking to claim part of the league title, and for awhile it looked as if they might get the job done. Even in defeat, they proved their first winning record in 20 seasons is no fluke.
   "You had two good teams playing each other," said West Greene head coach Barry Carter. "This time Hampton was able to pull it out. Our kids showed a lot of heart and a lot of desire. They played as hard as they could play. I'm really proud of them. I think this proves we've got a good football team."
   Starting the first quarter in gangbuster fashion, the 'Dogs used the legs of Peterson to roll right through the Buffalo defense. Peterson carried six straight times for 48 yards before Sarrett bulled his way to a 6-yard TD run, and a Morton conversion gave the 'Dogs an 8-0 advantage.
   That didn't discourage West Greene, which answered with an 11-play, 68-yard trip to the end zone by riding the passing arm of Josh Dearinger. Capping the drive with a 12-yard TD toss to Jason Smith, Dearinger then tallied the conversion to tie the game.
   Hampton appeared to retake the lead on its next possession, but a penalty negated a 23-yard scoring run by Peterson. This infraction served as a boon to West Greene, and in the second quarter the Buffaloes seized a 14-8 edge on a 34-yard scoring toss from Dearinger to Michael Franklin.
   Dearinger, 7-of-21 for 117 yards, did all of his damage in the first half. In the second half, he went 0-of-11 and was picked off three times.
   "Our (defensive) line was kind of standing around, leaning and not moving," Campbell said. "We appealed to them at halftime, and they came out and did a fine job that second half. I'm real proud of them, and the defensive backs came out and did a super job."
   The 'Dogs sacked Dearinger seven times in the game, with five sacks coming in the second half.
   "The defensive line really got a hold of him," said Hampton defensive end Pat Murphey, who accounted for seven tackles and half a sack in a solid performance. "We've always been a second-half team. I don't guess it's a good thing, but that's just how we are."
   An Eric Swain interception, coupled with a 15-yard facemask penalty on his 21-yard return, set the 'Dogs up at the West Greene 24 in the third quarter, and the visiting team was back in business. Hampton cashed in the opportunity when Morton scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, knotting the score at 14-all.
   From there the two teams did little offensively until Hampton's winning march.
   "We had to dig down deep and bring out something in us," Peterson said. "We all played well, and the line blocked great. Their team was good, and our team was just a little bit better. Both of us were fighting from the heart. That's what got us there -- fighting from the heart."
   Campbell credited Peterson for turning the tide late, and noted that his star runner got needed help from linemen Brad Hodge, Robby England, Eddie Lance, Adam Potter and Brandon Bolling.
   "I say Mikey, but Mikey got some blocking," Campbell said. "The line decided to play in the second half. They played down in that second quarter and stood around and went through the motions. They started to play and Mikey was running."
   Sarrett turned in a nice all-around effort by rushing 12 times for a career-high 63 yards, and collecting 11 tackles at linebacker. England totaled 11 tackles and three sacks in a big defensive showing while Justin Waycaster and Nave added seven stops apiece.
   Frankie Ottinger had an interception for the Buffaloes.
   "It's a great feeling (to win) when it's a close game like that and you play a hard game," Murphey said.