Bulldogs get past Panthers
On a night when Cumberland Gap quarterback Ryan Hoskins filled the air with passes like handfuls of confetti at a downtown parade, Hampton had what it took to hold the final upper hand.
Getting 208 all-purpose yards, a touchdown run, a touchdown pass and four extra points from senior Cody Walsh, the Bulldogs withstood 52 passes by Hoskins and defeated the Panthers 34-29 in an entertaining Watauga Conference football clash on Friday at J.C. Campbell Stadium.
"It's about time I did something," said Walsh after Hampton broke its three-game losing streak. "I haven't done as well as I expected to this season. I really wanted to win tonight. My line, my fullback -- I can't say enough about how well they blocked for me tonight. The holes just really opened up."
With Johnny Price, Seth Clawson, Travis Mizzell, Martin Winters and Donny Davis doing a good job blocking up front, and fullback Jonathan Potter doing his part to clear the way, tailback Walsh carried 19 times for 122 yards, and his 3-yard scoring run capped a 9-play, 58-yard Hampton drive to open the game.
"Cody ran well tonight," said coach J.C. Campbell, whose 'Dogs (2-2, 3-5) moved into a tie with South Greene for third place in the Watauga. "He ran better than normal. He did a lot less dancing and a little more running."
Walsh had a 2-for-2, 75-yard effort on tailback passes, hitting Gene Sanchez for a 46-yard score and a 29-yard gain, and chipped in 11 yards on a kickoff return. Turning in an excellent performance, Sanchez finished with six receptions for 119 yards.
Potter was very much a force as a runner, gaining 98 yards and scoring a touchdown on 13 carries. At linebacker, he grabbed an interception, and delivered a monster hit on Brad Beason as the Panther running back was trying to make a catch.
Lucas Roark scored on a catch and a run for Hampton, which received a team-high 10 tackles and a fumble recovery from defensive back Adam Townsend.
Asked how he felt about his team following the contest, Campbell said: "Pretty good. They're as good as we are. They had as many or more good players as we had."
Leading the way for the Panthers (1-3, 3-5) was Hoskins, who totaled 24 completions -- he saw several of his passes dropped -- for 266 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Adding a 1-yard scoring plunge, the QB had a hand in all four Cumberland Gap TDs.
Zeth Clemons gathered in nine catches for 82 yards for a young Panther squad that has steadily improved throughout the course of the season.
"They've gotten better and better," Cumberland Gap coach DeLynn Cline said of his players. "That's what you hope for when you've got a young team. They work hard and they're a great bunch of kids. They're growing up."
Hampton's second possession drew the same ending result as the first. The 'Dogs generated a 6-play, 53-yard march that culminated with quarterback Zack Crabtree firing a 6-yard jump pass to Roark for a TD, then Walsh booted his second PAT of the night for a 14-0 Hampton lead.
Flirting with a major disaster, Cumberland Gap fumbled the ball to Townsend on its next play from scrimmage -- at the Bulldog 28. Hampton, however, needed just three plays to fumble it back, and the 'Dogs coughed the ball over to the Panthers two more times before the end of the first half.
In response, Cumberland Gap took all three of those Bulldog miscues and went to paydirt. Hoskins wrapped two of his scoring tosses -- 50 yards to Jerry Branham and 17 yards to Jeremy Mize -- around his TD run, and John Gilliam nailed three PATs as the Panthers seized a 21-14 edge.
"We showed a lot of character after going down 14-0 and fumbling in our own territory," Cline said.
The 'Dogs did have a fast answer for the Panther surge, and it came in the form of the Walsh-to-Sanchez TD with 1:48 to go until intermission.
"I really love them," Walsh, who also completed a throw last week, said of his passing attempts. "They're a lot of fun. They were kind of a joke at the start of the season. I told J.C. that I could throw the ball, and he kind of laughed at me. They've worked out pretty well."
Another Walsh extra point made for a 21-21 halftime tie.
In the third quarter, Hampton was able to twice trap Cumberland Gap deep in Panther territory, and the effort paid off when substitute QB Roark -- an injury knocked Crabtree from the game late in the second quarter -- sneaked into the end zone from a yard out. Walsh followed by putting the ball through the uprights, and the 'Dogs were up 28-21.
"That field position there was pretty hard on them, and helpful to us," Campbell said. "We got a little rest (at halftime), I guess, and got after (Hoskins) pretty good. And we had people where he was trying to throw it to."
Said Cline about his team being backed up: "When you do what we do (offensively), it's tough."
A 4-yard Potter TD run, set up by his interception near the Panther 30, put Hampton on top 34-21 with 8:16 left in the contest. Jacob Shipley's 20-yard scoring reception, and a Hoskins-to-Clemons 2-point conversion pass, re-tightened the score with seven seconds to play. A failed on-sides kick attempt sealed the Bulldog victory.
Shipley (46 receiving yards) and Mize (35) caught five passes apiece for Cumberland Gap, which was held to nine rushing yards on 16 attempts, and the Panthers' Gerald Branham, Dustin Gulley, Andrew Fultz and Chris Gilbert each recovered a fumble.
Defensive back Brandon Barnett contributed eight tackles to the Bulldog cause.
According to Campbell, Friday night's win brightens what had been a gloomy outlook for Hampton, which can wrap up a playoff berth by prevailing at Chuckey-Doak next week.
"My golf game will be a little better tomorrow," he said while dining on a slice of pizza. "This old pizza tastes a little better."
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