Defense paid big dividends for '72 'Dogs

By Jamie Combs
SPORTS EDITOR
jcombs@starhq.com

   The story of the 1972 Hampton football team kind of takes a page from the story of the three little pigs. Head coach J.C. Campbell had a defensive powerhouse that year, and no matter how hard Bulldog opponents huffed and puffed, they just couldn't blow it down.
   "They were a good defensive team then and they would be a good defensive team now, if they were playing now," Campbell said of his '72 'Dogs. "They were tough to score on."
   Tough to score on, indeed. Thirty years after they last played a down, the '72 'Dogs still own the school's 11-man football record for fewest points allowed (50) during the course of a single season.
   "We played with a lot of heart," Rusty Barnett, a standout linebacker on the team, said of the 'Dogs' defensive strength. "That was our main thing. We played hurt, we played sick. The only way you were going to get us off the field was on a stretcher."
   Earning their special place in Hampton lore, the '72 'Dogs also posted an 8-1-1 record, going 7-0 in league play to capture the Watauga Conference championship.
   Racking up five shutouts -- against Cloudland, South Greene, David Crockett, Lynn View and Surgoinsville -- Hampton truly put on an impressive defensive show, never allowing more than 13 points in a single game.
   Tackle Myron Hyder and end Joey Nave were a pair of tornadoes on the defensive line, while nose tackle Dwayne Calhoun, end Tommy Smith and tackle Steve "Stonewall" Jackson proved to be solid performers in the hand-to-hand combat of trench warfare.
   With Barnett and Rex Dugger taking care of business at the two linebacker spots, it was rare that an opposing running back made it past the 'Dogs' front seven.
   "We had good containment on the ends, then that let Rex and I capitalize in the middle," Barnett said. "Rex and I handled things pretty well at linebackers; we read things real well. Myron Hyder played tackle in front of me, and he freed me up a lot. We had a real good line -- they tied things up on the line pretty well.
   "Joey Nave was as strong as an ox."
   In the Bulldog secondary, ballhawking safeties Rick McClain and Barry Phillips teamed with cornerbacks Ricky Arnold and Roger Edney to form an outstanding quartet.
   Bulldog coach Doug Phillips, who served as brother and coach to Barry, was Campbell's lone assistant at the time. He remembers just how well the defensive backfield got the job done.
   "We had a super secondary," said Doug. "I remember Barry and Rick playing safety, and we'd be just praying for somebody to throw a pass because we intercepted more than they caught."
   Complementing the team's overall display of defensive excellence was a productive offense keyed by Barry Phillips, a slick-operating quarterback who occasionally starred at receiver, and the impressive running of Dugger, a big back with speed and strength.
   Making a smooth transition from halfback, Barry accounted for 12 touchdowns (10 rushing, 2 receiving), passed for three others and led the 'Dogs in scoring with 87 points.
   "Barry Phillips was one of the quickest kids we've ever had here," Campbell said. "He was the fastest kid in the school and probably the fastest kid in the conference. We ran the option some. You could put him at receiver and he could catch the ball better than anybody we had. He could run and he could think. He was just an outstanding athlete."
   Just for good measure, Barry anchored the special teams by kicking 12 extra points and a field goal.
   As for Dugger, he chewed up big yardage to go with his eight touchdowns.
   "If he got a step, there wasn't anybody around who could catch him, and he was a load to tackle," Campbell said. "Rex was tough, a hard runner and just a wonderful person."
   Charlie Miller, who contributed as a reserve defensive lineman, was a key cog as a starter at offensive guard. Linemen Jackson, Smith, Calhoun and Hyder held down spots on the first-team offense, as did Arnold (FB), Nave (TE), Barnett (SE) and Edney (flanker/RB).
   Although senior Tony Deloach garnered some playing time and Jeff Clark fired two touchdown passes in Hampton's season-ending win at Surgoinsville, the 'Dogs relied on a small core of players.
   "We were low in numbers," Barnett said. "We all played both ways. In those days, you walked on the field for the opening kickoff and you didn't leave till it was over."
   Hampton was really put to the test against a deep Daniel Boone squad, which had plenty of big bodies, in the third game of the season. However, defense saved the day for a 7-6 Bulldog victory.
   "That was the most intimidating game, physical wise," Barnett said. "It was a tough game, but the most important game was the Happy Valley game."
   Needing a win at Happy Valley to clinch the conference title, Hampton found itself on the trailing end of a 13-0 halftime score.
   Although Barry Phillips broke a 45-yard TD run, then Dugger scored from 34 yards out, the 'Dogs were still trailing (13-12) with less than four minutes to go in the contest.
   Fittingly, though, Hampton's defense rose to the occasion, forcing a fumble that Calhoun recovered for a touchdown as the 'Dogs emerged with a 19-13 win.
   Calhoun's score was the fourth touchdown of the season for the Hampton defense, as Barry Phillips, Barnett and Nave tallied one apiece.
   "Our offense was good, but our defense is what carried us," Barnett said.
   Led by their record-setting defense, the '72 'Dogs, who boasted six all-conference players (Arnold, Dugger, Hyder, Nave, Barnett, Barry Phillips) and two all-conference honorable mentions (Calhoun, Miller), easily qualify as one of the elite teams in Hampton football history.
   "I would think so," said Doug Phillips. "There were some good athletes on that team."
   Asked how he would rank the '72 'Dogs on the all-time Hampton list, Barnett said: "I would put us in the top five. I know that may be boasting a little bit, but I believe we'd be in the top five."