Wartburg drops 12-0 loss on Hampton

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR

   A golden opportunity came early, and it slipped through Hampton's fingers like a bar of wet soap in a hot shower.
   Watching its game-opening drive fall mere inches short of a touchdown, Hampton never fully recovered en route to a 12-0 loss to Wartburg Central in the first round of the Class 2-A state playoffs Friday night at J.C. Campbell Stadium.
   "We had our chances," said Hampton sophomore Mitchell Morton. "The first drive we went down there, had a good chance to score and didn't take advantage of it. It could have been a closer game.
   "Basically, they were just stronger than us. I believe we played pretty hard and gave it our best. We had a good season -- I'm proud of our boys."
   In the battle between two teams called the Bulldogs, Wartburg (8-3) captured its first playoff victory since beating Hampton 21 years ago and advanced to a showdown with Alcoa, the defending state champ. Hampton saw its season end with an encouraging 6-5 mark.
   Coach J.C. Campbell's Hampton squad started off in promising style, marching from its own 39-yard line to a first-and-goal situation at the Wartburg 5.
   However, a poor exchange between Morton and fullback Jeremy Hall on third-and-goal resulted in a fumble -- which Hampton recovered at the 2 -- and sabotaged the threat. From there, Hall crashed into the middle of the Wartburg defense, leaving the nose of the football just shy of the goal line.
   "We've made plays like that off and on all year," Wartburg coach Larry Davis said of his club's fourth-down stop. "Just a good effort by our kids."
   Hampton's offense was unable to sustain a lengthy march the rest of the night.
   "That's life," Campbell said. "We did some things besides the handoff there, mistakes like going the wrong way and things of that nature. In other words, we weren't in real good sync."
   Morton was able to recover a Wartburg fumble near the end of the first quarter, but Hampton turned the ball back over just two plays later, coughing it up near midfield.
   Given great field position, Wartburg went to work using the legs and passing arm of talented quarterback John T. Armes.
   With 7:09 to go in the second quarter, Armes flicked a 1-yard touchdown pass to Travis Aytes for the game's first score. The extra-point attempt bounced off the right upright.
   Wartburg took a 6-0 advantage to the break, and the lead would have been more if not for stellar play by Morton in the secondary. Aside from breaking up two potential TD passes, he picked off Armes in the end zone a minute before the end of the half.
   "Mitchell's hard to throw against," Campbell said. "We've got all those defensive backs coming back except Mel (Ramey). If we can get a little more help in the line there, we should be OK."
   While Hampton still took plenty of hope into the second half, Wartburg was about to strike for a damaging touchdown. After receiving the third-quarter kickoff, Wartburg only needed seven plays to drive 72 yards to paydirt. Following a 38-yard run by Aytes, Derek Daugherty did the scoring honors, scooting into the end zone from seven yards out.
   "We didn't have near the intensity that we did last week (vs. Oliver Springs)," Davis said, "but we played well enough to win. We made a lot of mistakes, but we gutted it out."
   Defense carried Wartburg the rest of the way, with Hampton collecting two first downs over the final two quarters of play.
   Hampton's best second-half opportunity came after Wartburg blew a punt attempt midway into the fourth period, giving the hometown 'Dogs the ball in enemy territory at the 40.
   After a five-yard gain, though, Jake Hawn grabbed an interception and returned it 38 yards to seal the outcome.
   Gaining 77 yards on 10 rushes Aytes led a balanced ground attack for Wartburg, which outrushed Hampton 239-95. John England added 10 carries for 57 yards, Armes 14 for 56 and Daugherty 11 for 54.
   The glue-like coverage of Morton and Justin Waycaster did hold Wartburg to 43 yards in the passing game. Ramey showed the way in tackles with 11 hits, while linebackers Josh Nave and Jimmy Sarrett totaled 10 and nine tackles, respectively.
   Adam Pierson was tops on the line with seven stops.
   Offensively for Hampton, Michael Peterson racked up 65 yards on 14 rushes.
   "We're going to work real hard in the offseason," Morton said. "We're going to lift weights and get stronger and we'll be as tough as they (Wartburg) were. We had the heart. We'll have as much heart next year as we did this year."
   Campbell thinks his players will learn from this postseason loss.
   "Wartburg beat a good Oliver Springs team last week, and we went toe-to-toe with Wartburg," Campbell said. "I think maybe they'll see those other teams down there (in Region 2), with the exception of Alcoa, are not so awesome that they can't be played with."