Wartburg derails Hampton

By Jamie Combs

SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   Like a vitamin B-12 shot for one team and a poison dart to the side of the neck for the other, what happened during the first half's closing seconds at J.C. Campbell Stadium on Friday night had an unmistakable two-sided effect.
   While Wartburg Central got an invigorating boost, Hampton saw its chance of victory fade to black.
   Failing to score from less than a yard out and missing a golden opportunity to tie the game as the first half was coming to an end, Hampton went on to drop a 28-14 decision to Wartburg in the opening round of the 2-A state playoffs.
   "It had a lot of effect on us," Hampton senior Jimmy Sarrett said of the missed opportunity. "It got us down because we couldn't move anybody six inches to get the ball in. We tried everything we could to get it in there, and it just failed."
   According to Wartburg head coach Larry Davis, his team yielding no points in that situation, and protecting a 14-7 lead, was huge.
   "I thought that was the biggest thing in the game," Davis said.
   Losing the battle of the Bulldogs, injury-riddled Hampton wrapped up the season with an 8-3 record. Wartburg improved to 8-3, and will face Region 2 rival Oliver Springs on the road in the next round.
   After digging itself an early 14-0 hole, Hampton started to battle back when quarterback Mitchell Morton made runs of 19 and 15 yards to set up his own 1-yard scoring plunge with 3:15 to go in the second quarter. Cody Walsh kicked the extra point to cut the Wartburg lead to 14-7.
   When Josh Nave recovered a Wartburg fumble three plays later, Hampton had the ball in enemy territory at the 49-yard line. A 21-yard run by Sarrett and 18-yard over-the-shoulder catch by Eric Swain took the hometown 'Dogs inside the 1, where a Morton sneak and Sarrett run proved unsuccessful.
   Following a timeout, Morton ran in for an apparent touchdown, but a motion penalty negated the score and pushed Hampton back to the 6.
   "The last thing I told them was don't get a penalty, don't get in motion," said Hampton head coach J.C. Campbell.
   There was still time for one more play in the half, but a Morton pass fell incomplete in the end zone.
   "We jumped out 14-0, then we kind of went in la-la land," Davis said. "They fought back and got in it. We didn't answer till they got down near the goal."
   Its vaunted running attack stifled in the second quarter, Wartburg hit the option jackpot midway through the third as quarterback John T. Armes cut loose for a 48-yard TD run and 21-7 Central lead.
   With fullback Ryan Gunter pounding the ball seven times for 32 yards on his team's next possession, Wartburg marched 70 yards on 15 plays to take a 28-7 advantage. Travis Aytes ran one yard for the score with 11:23 remaining in the game.
   "They've got a good ballclub," Campbell said of Wartburg. "They play too many people. With the injuries we had, we didn't have any depth to counteract with. We made some good plays. Their quarterback is good."
   Hampton answered with its second TD of the night, reaching the end zone on a 37-yard scamper by Michael Peterson. Campbell's club got the ball back one more time, and advanced to the Wartburg 30 before time ran out.
   "They did a good job against us, but we're moving on and that's what we want," Davis said. "It gives us a rematch with Oliver Springs, and we want that one desperately."
   Wartburg used the passing game to gain its 14-0 lead against Hampton, as Armes connected on scoring throws of 64 yards to Aytes, then 38 yards to Jake Hawn.
   The hometown 'Dogs were playing without injured cornerback Kevin Harrison, an outstanding pass defender.
   "Pass defense has been our strong suit," Campbell said. "That's what you do, though, when you get one hurt. We played hard."
   Armes totaled 108 yards through the air while adding 90 yards rushing on 18 carries. Gunter contributed 16 rushes for 70 yards.
   For Hampton offensively, Morton completed 10 of 19 passes for 110 yards, and Swain garnered 70 yards on a career-high six receptions. Peterson amassed 112 yards from scrimmage, with 84 of those (on 15 carries) coming on the ground.
   Defensively, Sarrett and Nave paced the team with 13 tackles apiece. Robby England (12), Morton (12) and Corey McKinney (10) all reached double digits in total stops.
   In spite of the loss, Hampton can still take pride knowing it won a conference championship as well as eight games -- the most by a Hampton team since the 1996 Bulldogs won 12 -- in 2002.
   "I've got a lot of great memories about the season," Campbell said. "I'm disappointed losing this football game, but I'm not disappointed with the team. With the injuries we've had, these boys have had to play longer than they're used to. We had a few subs we could put in, then we didn't have them. I'm proud as a peach of this team."
   It was only two years ago that the Hampton program was stuck in the doldrums.
   "This is the first (championship) winning season we've had since '96," Sarrett said. "Nobody thought we'd be 8-3 this year. We've done everything we can to get this program built back up. J.C.'s a great coach."