Hampton braces for Happy Valley arsenal

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com
To get the job done against Happy Valley tailback Tim Whaley, Hampton coach J.C. Campbell knows that his defense must be like 11 pitchforks delving into a single haystack. Campbell said the Bulldogs can't afford to have one player not working to complete this difficult task.
"We've really got to have pursuit out of our defense," said Campbell, whose 'Dogs entertain Happy Valley in a major Watauga Conference football tilt on Friday night. "We've got to do it all night if we're going to stop that boy. He can stop, go, cut and turn. He's a big, old strong boy besides, so we'll really have to pursue to stop him."
Whaley, the league's No. 1 rusher with 608 yards on 94 carries, and No. 1 scorer with 54 points on nine touchdowns, isn't the only worry for Hampton (1-1, 3-3) on its homecoming night.
Aiming to break a three-game losing streak to its fierce, cross-county rival, Happy Valley (2-1, 6-1) enters the contest, which should carry playoff-seeding implications, with multiple playmakers and the look of a team with no glaring weaknesses.
"They look awful good," Campbell said. "That's a good looking ball club. They do a lot of things well."
Added Adam Potter, a senior lineman for the 'Dogs: "It's going to be a hard game -- a tough game. The defense is going to have to play well and the line is going to have to block real well. The backs are going to have to hit the holes, and we can't make too many mistakes."
In addition to Whaley, quarterback Todd Caldwell and receiver Drew Davis are top members of the Happy Valley playmakers' club on offense, nourishing a Warrior attack that has expanded its repertoire from past seasons.
"Used to, we kind of knew what they were going to do: line up in that double-wing, then run the option right or left," Campbell said. "Now they do a lot of different stuff. They throw the ball -- and catch it some. I don't mind them throwing it. I don't want them to catch it."
Caldwell, the Watauga's second-leading passer (486 yards), has thrown for four touchdowns and carried for four others this season, while Davis' receiving totals going into the game are nine catches for 175 yards and a pair of TDs.
Derrick Hamm, who caught a 63-yard scoring toss from Caldwell during last week's 35-15 Happy Valley victory over Cumberland Gap, is possibly starting to emerge at receiver, and running backs Michael Hollifield (222 yards rushing, four TDs on 45 attempts) and Lance Whitehead (153 yards on 34 carries) deliver power from the Warrior backfield.
Happy Valley leads the Watauga in scoring, averaging 25.6 points per game.
The Warriors are third in the conference in scoring defense, giving up an average of 12.7 points a contest. Their leading defensive playmakers are Davis, the league frontrunner in interceptions with six, linebacker Will Lowe and lineman Daniel Dover.
According to Campbell, the Warriors' standard defensive formation will force the 'Dogs to change their offensive philosophy, which generally tilts to the smashmouth running game.
"We've got some things that are strong points," he said. "Happy Valley seems to take those strong points away with a nine-man line, so we'll have to try to do something else -- something we're not as familiar with."
The 'Dogs, averaging 18.3 points a contest (fourth in WC), may need quarterback Mitchell Morton (321 yards, 5 TDs passing) to have a sharp performance throwing the football. However, Morton will have to operate without the services of star receiver Eric Swain, who will serve a TSSAA one-game suspension after getting ejected from Hampton's contest with Gatlinburg-Pittman (a 25-14 Bulldog loss) last week.
"You always feel better when you've got (all your players)," Campbell said. "Sometimes you can get someone in there and they're not sure, and sometimes you can put a player in there that does better than the one before.
"Maybe somebody will step up."
Jacob Moss, with three TD receptions on the season, and Cody Walsh, with two, have shown flashes of brilliance in the pass-catching domain.
Hampton will possibly be without starting fullback/defensive back Justin Waycaster, who injured a shoulder in the Pittman contest. Waycaster is the No. 3 rusher in the Watauga (535 yards on 82 attempts) and the top tackler (45 stops) for the 'Dogs.
If Waycaster is unable to go, expect Dustin Crumley to fill in at fullback and Gene Sanchez in the secondary.
The Bulldog defense, giving up an average of 22.2 points (fifth in WC) per outing, has played well since yielding a combined 87 points in its first two games, and received an 11-tackle, 1-sack effort from end Donny Singleton last week.
The Warriors appear to have an edge in special teams as Casey Shatley has booted 18 extra points and two field goals.
Overall, the line play is sure to be key in Friday night's game. Potter commented that the Warriors are certainly good up front, but doesn't sell his team's line short.
"It should be a good, head-knocking battle on the line," he said.
With the two teams possibly fighting for a second-place finish in the conference and homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs, there should be no shortage of intensity on the field. Of course, the intensity would probably be the same if they had nothing to play for but pride.
"Happy Valley's always a big rivalry for Hampton," Potter said.
Added Campbell: "It wouldn't matter if we were both 0-fors. It might have a big bearing on homefield advantage in the playoffs, but when Happy Valley plays Hampton, it's always the same."