'Dogs must deal with No. 1 Alcoa

Photo by Kristen Luther
Quarterback Zack Crabtree has thrown six TD passes this season for the Bulldogs.

  Football season for the Hampton Bulldogs has turned as gruff as an Army drill sergeant on the first day of boot camp.
  Downed 48-0 at home by South Greene in their regular-season finale, the 'Dogs (4-6) must follow up that clobbering by playing Alcoa (9-1), the top-ranked Class 2A team in the state, on the road in the opening round of the playoffs tonight.
  "You just circle your wagons and play as basic as you can play, and try to work on the things that are going to help you -- like blocking and tackling," said Hampton coach J.C. Campbell about his team's strategy and preparation for the heavily-favored Tornadoes. "You're not going to out-finesse them, and you're not going to outrun them."
  Bidding for its sixth state championship, Alcoa has been thoroughly dominant this season, outscoring its opponents 427-69. Furthermore, the Tornadoes gave undefeated Maryville, the season-long No. 1 in Class 4A, its toughest competition of the year, losing 31-18.
  "We're playing the No. 1 team in the state," Campbell said. "That ranking is correct, I think. Really, it's a good chance for our kids to play against a real good team. A lot of teams are not getting to play an extra game. I don't think we deserve to because you should have to win at least five games to get to go to the playoffs, but that's the way it fell."
  Plummeting to a 3-7 record just two years ago, the Tornadoes didn't stay down for long.
  "To be ranked No. 1 and to come from where we came, we changed the whole mindset of what this program is about," second-year Alcoa coach John Reid told The Daily Times in Maryville. "I think sometimes this program carried the stigma that you just put athletes out, and they'll practice hard. They didn't lift (weights) hard, and now they do lift hard. Gosh, kids like lifting weights. They're proud of that, especially if it results in the whole package coming together."
  Led by ends Rae Sykes and Brandon Warren, linebacker Logan Love and cornerback Richieon Bell, Alcoa features an aggressive, hard-hitting defensive unit.
  Offensively for the Tornadoes, tailback Dustin Lindsey has been unstoppable, racking up 1,377 yards and 30 touchdowns on just 163 carries, while third-year starting quarterback Joei Feigler (68-of-119 for 1,389 yards and 16 TDs), tight end Warren (25 receptions, 476 yards, seven TDs) and wide receivers Kryus Lanxter (20-413, seven TDs) and Brian Sommers (15-335, two TDs) have served as the main men in an explosive air attack.
  According to Campbell, speed is the greatest Alcoa ally.
  "Always has been," he said. "It's not like it's something we haven't faced before, but this is a little more drastic because of our situation. We've lost some players, due to injuries and so on, that we needed to have with us."
  For the 'Dogs, tailback Cody Walsh has come on strong the second half of the season, and enters tonight's action with 125 rushes for 773 yards and a half-dozen TDs. Fullback Jonathan Potter's rushing totals read 601 yards and five TDs on 102 carries, and quarterback Zack Crabtree has thrown for 387 yards and a total of six scores.
  Hampton wide receiver Gene Sanchez has caught 18 passes for 245 yards and a pair of TDs.
  On the Bulldog defense, linebacker Martin Winters is just six tackles shy of the century mark. Patrolling the secondary as the squad's No. 2 tackler (73 stops) is Adam Townsend, and end Lucas Roark boasts solid, all-around defensive numbers with 72 stops, four fumble recoveries and four sacks.
  For the Hampton freshmen, sophomores and juniors who see action tonight, they have an opportunity to improve for next year.
  "Anytime you play teams that are that good, it becomes sort of a measuring stick," Campbell said.
  Kickoff is set for 7.