Hampton no trouble for Highlanders


SPORTS EDITOR


  GATLINBURG -- In Friday night's Watauga Conference football contest at Hammonds Field, Hampton was like the eruption that occurred at Mount St. Helens just hours before kickoff. The Bulldogs never posed a serious threat.
  "We didn't have (any emotion) at the first of the game," said Bulldog quarterback Zack Crabtree following Hampton's 26-0 setback to first-place Gatlinburg-Pittman.
  Crabtree, who went all four quarters on an injured knee after not being expected to play, said the 'Dogs were experiencing a one-week hangover from a tough loss to Unicoi County.
  "We were more bark than bite, as they say," he said. "Our heads were still down, but it's no excuse. We had a lot of key people who didn't play their 'A' game."
  Falling to 1-1 in the league and 2-4 overall, the 'Dogs mustered just 99 yards of offense against the 3-0, 4-2 Highlanders. Hampton didn't manufacture a first down until late in the opening half.
  "I'm disappointed," said Hampton coach J.C. Campbell. "Now Pittman's got a good program and all that sort of stuff, but when not one soul will block anybody, you're disappointed."
  Even though Hampton played adequately at times on the defensive side of the ball, Campbell was frustrated by Pittman's 9-of-12 passing performance that gained 120 yards.
  "We are not aware of the forward pass," he said. "We've thrown thousands of balls to these same boys for four years, and they don't recognize the pass. It's just not in them to play any pass defense."
  As for Highlander coach Benny Hammonds, his postgame analysis centered on effort.
  "We've worked hard this week," Hammonds said. "We just think we've been pretty flat the last couple of weeks, plus we were coming off a big loss, for us, against Seymour. We just really emphasized playing a little bit harder. I think we played harder tonight than we played the last couple of weeks."
  League rushing leader Devin Smith gained 116 yards and scored a touchdown on 23 carries, Jordan Jones ran 13 times for 91 yards and two scores, and Jake Reagan fired a 7-yard TD pass to Richard Carr, helping to highlight the Pittman win.
  Smith's 1-yard plunge across the goal line, coupled with Rollie File's extra-point kick, had the Highlanders on top by a 7-0 score in the first quarter.
  On Pittman's next possession, Reagan, a 5-8, 150-pound junior, went 3-of-3 while engineering an 11-play, 65-yard drive that ended with his TD toss to Carr, who kept the march alive with a 10-yard reception on a third-and-10. Todd Sherman contributed a 34-yard catch to the cause, and another File PAT pushed the score to 14-0 at the 8:04 mark of the second quarter.
  "On defense, Hampton was bringing a lot of people up (near the line)," Hammonds said. "It makes it tougher to run against, but I thought our passing game was good to us most of the time. I thought our little quarterback, Jake Reagan, did a good job when he had to in the passing game."
  Reagan finished 6-of-8 for 77 yards, with reserve QB Eric Hutchinson going 3-of-4 for 43 yards.
  A 9-yard TD dash from Jones sent Pittman to the half with a 20-0 advantage, and his 14-yard run to paydirt in the third quarter finished out the scoring. The Highlanders totaled 240 yards on the ground, giving them 360 in offense.
  The 'Dogs would have had some big plays and averted the shutout if not for infractions. Penalties brought back kick returns of 54 and 48 yards by Cody Walsh, as well as a 49-yard scoring toss from Crabtree to Gene Sanchez.
  "Any positive thing we did was (negated by) a penalty," Campbell said. "I told the players (the loss) was a team effort. It wasn't one -- it was all of them."
  Asked what his team can do to possibly get back on track, Campbell said: "Start working -- that's all you can do. There's no 'give up' in us. It's just a matter of you have to work, and hope to get better."
  According to Crabtree, next week's game at conference and Carter County rival Happy Valley should get the Bulldog team pumped back up.
  "I think that's going to spark us enough just because of the name," he said. "I'm pretty sure everybody is going to be excited to play next week, and be up for it. We just didn't have our heads on right tonight."
  In the tackling department for the 'Dogs, Martin Winters registered a dozen stops, followed by Chris Morgan and D.J. Oliver with 11 apiece. Amassing 10 tackles was Adam Townsend, with Johnny Price and Brandon Barnett each collecting nine hits.