Bulldogs need win vs. C-Gap
Hampton entertains the Cumberland Gap Panthers this Friday night, and the Bulldogs look to get back in the win column the way a contestant on The Price is Right looks to get a shot at spinning the big wheel.
"A win would get us on the right track and help us out in the conference," said Hampton tight end/defensive end Lucas Roark. "The practices have been a whole lot more intense. We're working a whole lot harder this week."
Losers of three straight games, the 'Dogs (1-2, 2-5) are locked in a tie with the Panthers (1-2, 3-4) for fourth place in the Watauga Conference -- meaning the Cumberland Gap-Hampton loser will probably have little hope of qualifying for one of the league's four playoff berths.
Postseason implications aside, Hampton needs to keep its 2004 campaign from going down the tubes.
"We need a win in the worst way," said Bulldog coach J.C. Campbell. "We played like a dog down at Gatlinburg, and we played like a dog for about a half at Happy Valley. We came back and played hard the last half (at HV). We still made some mistakes, but we looked more like a football club.
"Now if you're going through the motions, and they know when they are, they don't expect anything. They don't have a right to expect anything. But when you play hard and you know you're putting out, you expect to see some fruits of your labor."
Lethargic in a 26-0 loss at Gatlinburg-Pittman two weeks ago, Hampton was less than lively on the way to a 20-0 halftime deficit against Happy Valley last week. The 'Dogs, however, played with emotional fire in the second half on Warrior Hill, and salvaged some pride in a 27-12 setback.
"Happy Valley's a huge rivalry, and we were getting so tired of losing," said Roark when asked what inspired the 'Dogs to play the Warriors tough after halftime.
Although Hampton couldn't escape defeat at HV, Campbell is counting on last week's second half to carry over to the Cumberland Gap game.
"I might be a dreamer or whatever, but I think our boys saw that if you put out you can do some things," he said. "If you put out the effort and you play pretty good, you feel better about yourself and you get to expecting it."
Roark, who caught a 12-yard Zack Crabtree touchdown pass on the Warriors, said the 'Dogs are prepared to greet the Panthers with four quarters of fundamentally-sound, effort-packed football.
"We've only been playing one or two quarters a game, and that's not been making it," Roark said. "I think everybody realized that we're not good enough to play one or two quarters and go out and win the game."
In Cumberland Gap, a second-year program, the 'Dogs get an opponent known for its potency through the air. The Panthers boast the league's No. 1 passer, Ryan Hoskins, and No. 1 pass catcher, Zeth Clemons.
Hoskins has thrown for 973 yards by completing 78 of 151 attempts, firing four touchdown passes along the way. As for Clemons, he's made 34 receptions for 403 yards and a pair of scores.
"We've got to get some pass rush on them," Campbell said. "If you give them enough time, you can't stop them from completing passes, but if they've got to throw it a little before they want to, that makes it a little more difficult. I just somehow think that we'll get a little pressure on them."
Generating a pass rush is what helped the 'Dogs defeat Cumberland Gap 32-14 on the road a year ago, when Corey Russell was calling the signals for the Panther offense and was well on his way to finishing as the Watauga's top passer (1,713 yards). Russell threw for 237 yards in the contest, but much of that output came after Hampton had built a commanding lead.
"We did a real good job up there last year," Campbell said. "I may be stupid, but I kind of think we will now. It doesn't look like they're exceptionally fast -- they're pretty quick. The (Hoskins) boy looked to me like he throws it as well as the one they had last year. They're going to catch some balls, you know."
The Panthers appeared headed toward a brutal season in the early part of the '04 schedule, but three wins in their last four games have brightened their outlook. Last week, Cumberland Gap defeated Thomas Walker (Va.) 40-33 in a wild and woolly affair, with Hoskins having a hand in 199 yards of offense (144 passing, 55 rushing) and three TDs (two rushing, one passing).
Brad Beason rushed 10 times for 104 yards and a score vs. TW, and Clemons helped out as a runner (two TDs, including an 85-yarder) and at linebacker (one interception).
Notes: A knee injury has possibly derailed one of Hampton's starting defensive ends, D.J. Oliver, for the rest of the season. Oliver was injured in the Happy Valley game, and will be replaced this week by freshman Jarred Irick.