'Dogs lose to Rebs, miss playoffs

Photo by Dave Boyd
Hampton tailback Cody Walsh follows his blockers.

By Jamie Combs

   GREENEVILLE--Hampton scored first, and Hampton scored last. During the football that was played in between, the Bulldogs' hopes for victory fizzled out like Alka-Seltzer in a glass of water.
   Seeing their season come to an end, the 'Dogs lost a 35-15 Watauga Conference decision on Friday night to the South Greene Rebels, who received standout performances from Tyler Sauceman and Bruce Wright.
   "Sometimes you get up and things just don't go well for you," said Hampton coach J.C. Campbell, his club finishing 3-3 in the conference and 5-5 overall. "We thought we would play -- we felt prepared. The boys looked like they had a good attitude."
   Needing a win over the Rebels or a Cumberland Gap loss to West Greene to qualify for the playoffs, the 'Dogs got neither as C-Gap clobbered the Buffaloes by a 50-6 score.
   With Sauceman scoring four touchdowns and blocking a punt, and Wright completing 13-of-15 passes, including three TDs to Sauceman, for 118 yards, South Greene (3-3, 6-4) was able to extend its season by at least one week. Earning their 11th straight trip to the playoffs, the Rebels will be at Region 2-2A champion Oliver Springs for a first-round affair.
   "That's the best football game we've played all year," said Rebels coach Larry Ricker.
   "Our key players made big plays, and that's the best third quarter we've had. It seemed like after we blocked the punt, the momentum swung our way pretty good."
   Up 14-7 at the half, the Rebels put Hampton away following Sauceman's punt block early in the third quarter. Before the end of the period, Sauceman would score on a 9-yard catch (one play after the block), a 6-yard reception set up by Shane Roth's fumble recovery deep in Bulldog territory, and an 87-yard punt return.
   "They just came ready and wanted it more than us," said Hampton junior Jacob Moss, who ran for a 1-yard TD and caught a Mitchell Morton two-point conversion pass in the fourth quarter.
   The way things got started on Friday night, it looked as if the 'Dogs might have their way with the Rebels.
   After receiving the opening kickoff, Hampton used 11 plays to drive 71 yards for a touchdown. Justin Waycaster's 23-yard run up the gut accounted for the six points, and Cody Walsh's extra-point kick put Hampton on top 7-0 with 6:27 to go in the first quarter.
   "We started off well," Campbell said. "I think we made them mad."
   South Greene answered with a touchdown less than three minutes later. During a 6-play, 64-yard Rebel march, Wright hit Drew Bishop for 10 yards on a third-and-eight, connected with a diving Ryan Ward on a 33-yard pass, then, on the very next play, found Sauceman for a 20-yard TD.
   The first of five Jonathan Patrick PATs tied things up at 7.
   "I don't know if they're that good (at passing), or if we're that bad at pass defense," Campbell said. "If anybody throws it up in the air, and if they can catch it, we don't stop it. At the first of the year, we thought that would be the strongest part of our defense. But South Greene did it well."
   According to Ricker, the quick erasing of Hampton's lead was important.
   "It was huge," he said. "I mean they just ran over us, through us, scored there and made it look easy. We made a big third-down conversion, made a couple of good passes, and got down there and scored. It just set the tone for the game.
   "I think if they had gotten away from us, the game would have probably swung the other way. I'm just glad we hung in there and played a good, solid football game."
   Aided by a bad punt snap and 10-yard Rebel punt, Hampton had the ball at the South Greene 29 in the second period, but lost a fumble that Roth also recovered. Late in the half, the Rebels went on top when Clayton Tweed muscled into the end zone from two yards out.
   "That second quarter just killed us," Moss said.
   Said Campbell: "I felt like, going into tonight, that we hadn't lost to anybody we could or should beat. We didn't play real well at times, and sometimes we played pretty good for us. Tonight, I thought we would play better than we did."
   Sauceman accumulated six receptions for 62 yards, while Brandon Taylor had a nice game for the South Greene defense, recording double-digits in tackles.
   Hampton's defense, led by Dustin Crumley and Eddie Lance with nine tackles apiece, held South Greene to 75 yards of rushing on 31 attempts. Sean Moody contributed eight tackles, followed by Donny Singleton with seven. Adam Potter and Johnny Price added 1.5 sacks apiece.
   Offensively, Waycaster capped a super season (841 yards rushing) with 13 carries for 71 yards.
   The 'Dogs lose nine players -- Crumley, Lance, Morton, Potter, Moody, Singleton, Waycaster, Brandon Bowling and Eric Swain -- from this year's squad.
   "We're losing some good boys," Campbell said. "We're going to be young kids next year, and we won't have any senior linemen except for Seth (Clawson) and Ian (Miller). We'll be starting over."
   Asked what it will take for the 'Dogs to make their team better in 2004, Moss replied: "The line is going to have to step up -- we're losing a few linemen. We're getting most of our backs and receivers back -- I think we'll be all right there. We've just got to come and play harder. We've got to be more mentally focused. I think this whole year we weren't mentally focused."
   * Throwing for 48 yards against the Rebels, Morton went over the 2,000-yard passing mark for his high school career -- an impressive feat in Hampton's conservative offense. He finishes with 2,009 yards.
   * Swain, the team's star receiver, missed his second straight game due to illness. Tailback Zack Crabtree was also sick on Friday night, and didn't play.
   * The 'Dogs actually outgained the Rebels in total offense, 237-193. South Greene, however, made no turnovers.
   * Hampton closes with a 5-5 record for the first time since 1985.