It’s football time in Carter County

Published 10:24 am Monday, August 14, 2023

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By C.Y. Peters
     As I traveled up the four-lane to Hampton High School at about 5:45 Friday night for the 6:30 start time, the fans were already filling up both sides of the stadium.  When I finally found a parking space and entered the gate I saw many familiar faces who were fixtures in the Hampton Community.  Longtime basketball coach Jerry White, former Hampton football coach J.C Campbell, Steve Hartley whom everyone remembers from the 1970 & 80’s basketball years and James Bowers.
Campbell, whom the field is named for, graduated from Hampton in 1955 where he was the starting quarterback.  Campbell retired in 2008 after spending 41 years as the head coach for the Bulldogs.  He had 25 winning seasons and 22 playoff appearances.  Campbell was inducted into the Northeast Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame; TSSAA Hall of Fame (2011); Carter County Sports Hall of Fame (2012). Campbell won the National Football Foundation – Mountain Empire Coach’s Award in 2019.
     Six thirty had arrived and Hampton coach Michael Lunsford along with his dad Legend Mike Lunsford, were ready for the night’s activities to begin. First up was the longest punt contest.  Each team selected two players to enter the contest.  Austin Franklin of West Greene won the title with the longest punt.
     Next was the longest kick from the tee.  After a spin-off, Marcus Rojas from Chucky Doak was the winner.  The fastest lineman award was taken by Jeff Dotson of South Greene.   Dalton Daniels took the longest throw title and Dominique Burleson was the fastest back.
     In the first game of the night, it was Unaka taking on West Greene. The Buffaloes sure had the size on the Rangers but for 15 minutes the ball stayed between the thirties.  Neither team could get inside or close to the goal lines.   Brynin Repass came out throwing the ball and completed his first two passes moving the Rangers down the field, but the yellow flags began to fly and penalties moved the Rangers back.
About nine times in the 15-minute game, the Rangers were penalized.  Early season glitters, but the Rangers defense looks good.  West Greene had the ball four times in the quarter of play but could never get too far inside the Rangers territory.  The one time they dropped back for a pass, The Big Show, Marcus Shomaker shut them down.  The Ranger line played well in keeping the Buffalo runners from gaining many yards.  Unaka Coach O’Brien Bennett was pleased with the progress made by his team. “We had a very lackluster scrimmage Wednesday night during which we did not play with a high-intensity level and made a lot of mental mistakes. We came into the jamboree wanting to play up to our standards, correct mental mistakes, communicate, and generate some explosive plays on offense,” said Bennett. “Brynin Repass and Marcus Shomaker stepped up in leadership roles on both sides of the ball and Isaiah White made some great plays at the receiver position to move the chains. We still have a lot of work to do, but we definitely took a step in the right direction last night.”
     In the second game, South Greene made little work of cross-county foes North Greene scoring a long bomb on the second play of the game for the first score of the Jamboree and a 7-0 lead.  They would add to more scores for a 21-0 win.  The bright side of the game was meeting former North Greene coach Tim Bailey’s son.  He is an assistant coach for the Huskies, following in his dad’s footsteps.
     In the final game of the night, the home team Hampton Bulldogs who was 9-3 last season and played football until the middle of November last year was taking on Chucky Doak.  Both teams had several winning scrimmages and it was a good matchup for both teams.  Hampton showed why they are play-off material already this season, taking a 28-7 win in the 15-minute game.  Four different players for the Bulldogs put points on the board.  Dylan Trivette, Gene Carrico, Elijah McKinney and Dominique Burleson, who won the fastest back contest, all scored for the Dogs.
     The Dogs open up their regular season on Friday night against Pigeon Forge who they beat last year 20-0.  Hampton won their first six games last year before suffering a loss to Gatlinburg Pittman 48-40 in a non-district game.  Their only other season loss was to Daniel Boone in a thrilling 21-20 game.  Unaka travels to Chucky Doak for their season opener Friday.  In other Carter County games on Friday night, Elizabethton travels to Johnson City to face the Hilltoppers, Cloudland will travel to Happy Valley.

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