Jr. Bulldogs turn away Unaka

Photo by Rick Harris
Unaka's steps up to greet Hampton running back Dustin Jaynes, but not before Jaynes crosses the goal line for a touchdown.

By Wes Holtsclaw
The Hampton Junior Bulldogs have done a good job of keeping their momentum intact this season.
After the Little Watauga Jamboree loss to the Unaka Junior Rangers, the 'Dogs have been waiting for their one chance at redemption against their neighbors.
Unaka wouldn't give up easily, putting up a huge fight against Hampton despite a second-quarter injury to its leading rusher, Jeff Wilson.
However, the Bulldogs got going with two scores in the second half to pull away a 24-0 victory at J.C. Campbell Stadium, putting themselves in the championship game.
"The whole game was a weird game -- the way it started out and the long break," said Hampton coach Kelly Oliver. "Our whole team's prayers go out to Jeff, he's a heck of a running back. Had he stayed, it could've been a different ballgame. I just hope he's all right."
"Coach Wilson, he's done a heck of a job with (Unaka) this year. They finished with a winning season and that's big."
"We did play hard and with a lot of pride, but this is a game and my thoughts are with Jeff," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson, who took the Junior Rangers from 1-7 to 5-4 in just two years. "I want to get out of here and see how he's doing."
Hampton battled through a turnover on its first possession with solid defense from the start against Unaka.
A 47-yard punt from Wilson put the 'Dogs back, but two big runs from Dustin Jaynes gave him room for a four-yard score, giving Hampton an 8-0 lead with three minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Rangers were successful with their first three runs of their second drive before Chris Pierce hit Wilson with a big 37-yard pass to put the team in scoring position.
Wilson busted in with a three-yard touchdown, but it was called back on illegal procedure, and the Hampton defense wouldn't give them another inch.
A three-and-out series from the 'Dogs put the ball back in Unaka's hands, and Wilson took the second carry before being hit hard by a pack of blue.
Wilson was taken out of the stadium in an ambulance right before the end of the first half.
Hampton took the ball at the beginning of the second half after a quick three-and-out from Unaka, and drove successfully with runs from Jonathan Scalf, Jared Irick and Brooks Price.
Two penalties and some straight-up running gave Jaynes room for his second score of the night, a 2-yarder at the end of the third quarter.
Jaynes had another score called back on Unaka's next drive as a fumble in the backfield was taken 35 yards to paydirt. However, a facemask penalty gave the Rangers room for some big runs from Mickey Campbell.
A solid defensive effort from Hampton allowed Irick to pick things up offensively with a 36-yard run to set up his 10-yard touchdown, putting Hampton up 24-0.
The victory pits the 'Dogs against either Johnson County or Cloudland, which will meet today with the coaches, since they are tied for second, to see who will face off Tuesday night.
But one thing's for certain, the Bulldogs have one game left on their schedule and they will fight until the end.
"The season's not over," Oliver said. "We've got one game left -- that's why there wasn't a lot of celebration tonight. When the season started, we said once the championship game is over, then the season has ended. We've just got to finish now."
"I thought the defense brought it tonight," he said. "Even with a lot of penalties, they held through it and pitched a shutout even when they were deep."
Several things went right for Unaka throughout the game, and despite a lot of heart and effort, it couldn't come away with a final victory.
"We had a couple of big stops and we moved the ball on them," said Coach Wilson. "We stayed with them. They're the best team in the league, there's no doubt about that."
"I was real pleased with my kids' efforts and I'm so proud of my eighth graders," he said. "I've had these guys for two years now and they're a special group. I hope they do great things for Unaka High School."
The season is a victory in itself for the second-year coach, who turned a small losing team into an all-around group of winners.
"We were 1-7 last year and this year being 5-4, I'm real pleased," he continued. "We got things going in the right direction. I hope to keep interest in the community, and I want to see more kids come out and play football."
Jaynes led Hampton with 84 yards on the ground, while Irick added 69. Chris Pierce led both teams through the air with 59 yards passing.