Here's a pretty basic rule of thumb at any level of football: When your defense scores more touchdowns that it allows, you're almost always in good shape.
Hampton's 'D' was as opportunistic as it was impenetrable Friday night in a 24-0 win over Norcom in the Eastern Region Division 5 semifinals. The Crabbers had two interceptions – the first a pick-six, the second setting up a 10-yard touchdown drive.
And they also came up with a game-turning goal-line stand just before halftime at Todd Stadium.
"We take pride in our defense here," linebacker Tyrell Miller said. "Defense wins championships. Our offense did a good job, but our defense really stepped it up tonight. We knew we couldn't let up."
Up next for the Crabbers: a rematch with undefeated and top-seeded Phoebus, which crushed Great Bridge 35-6, for the region championship next Friday night at Darling Stadium. The Phantoms beat Hampton 37-12 on Oct. 22.
Hampton (11-1) held Norcom to six first downs and 139 total yards. And when the Greyhounds had four tries inside the 1-yard line to get in the end zone, the Crabbers turned them back.
Hampton was leading 3-0 when a low pitch from quarterback David Watford glanced off Kavon Bellamy's hands. Norcom's Fred Harris recovered, giving the Greyhounds (10-2) a first down at the Crabber 30-yard line with 10:01 left in the second quarter.
After moving the chains twice, Norcom had a first-and-goal from the 1. Two runs into the line gained nothing. Then, on third down, quarterback Jamaal Wright was sacked by Chris Tarrant back at the 2.
On fourth-and-goal, Wright tried to hit 6-foot-5 wideout Kameron Mack in the left corner of the end zone. But he was double covered, and Wright's pass was overthrown. Hampton took over, and Norcom wasted an opportunity.
The 12-play possession took 7:09 off the clock. The Greyhounds took six snaps from the 2-yard line or closer. But they came away empty.
"That was real important," lineman Dallas Cogdell said. "If they get that, that changes the momentum right there. But when we stopped them, I think it scared them."
Hampton coach Mike Smith called it the key sequence.
"That was the ballgame right there," he said. "That was great defense, and it was all heart."
On its fifth play of the third quarter, Hampton took a 10-0 lead on Watford's 40-yard pass to a wide-open Cogdell. If that didn't put it away, Deon Newsome's 30-yard interception return for six with 7:42 left in the game did.
Hampton added a 1-yard touchdown by Bellamy, which was set up by Daquin Moore's interception and 47-yard return.
"It was a good, solid game," Smith said. "I think we won it right before the half with that (goal line stand). We played great defense tonight."
Hampton's running game finished with only 72 yards, but Watford hit on 8-of-11 passes for 180 yards.
Friday night will mark the seventh time Phoebus and Hampton have met in the playoffs, with each team winning three times. But Smith wasn't ready to talk about the Phantoms yet.
"I'm just going to enjoy this win," he said. "Then I'll try to recruit me 19 or 20 players this week."
HAMPTON 24, NORCOM 0
Ham—Hutcheson FG 28, 3:53.
Ham—Cogdell 40 pass from Watford (Hutcheson kick), 8:15.
Ham—Newsome 30 interception return (Hutcheson kick), 7:42.
Ham—Bellamy 1 run (Hutcheson kick), 5:01.
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