Friday Night Hero: West’s Patrick Hampton
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan tight end Patrick Hampton woke up aching Saturday morning.
He was puzzled for two seconds, but then he remembered why his back hurt.
Hampton was part of the most memorable play of a 48-15 playoff win against Morganton Freedom on Friday. Well, the most memorable aside from the 6-yard run on which K.P. Parks surpassed 10,000 career rushing yards.
In the third quarter, Hampton went up for a B.J. Sherrill pass and held onto it despite a serious stick by Freedom’s Kincaid Marcus.
“I could see the guy coming, but I knew I had to catch the ball,” Hampton said. “If I dropped it, people were gonna say, ‘Wow, you got lit up.’ If I did catch it, at least I could say, ‘Yeah, I got lit up, but I held onto it.’ ”
He got lit up but held onto it for a 20-yard gain, and West finished the drive with a touchdown.
“Patrick took a big hit, but he pops right back up and hands the ball to the ref,” West coach Scott Young said. “Great catch. He’s made a bunch of them the last two weeks.”
Hampton made a 17-yard catch on West’s first offensive snap to set up a TD.
On West’s third possession, he made another clutch reception when the Falcons faced fourth-and-8 at the Freedom 25. Hampton ran a drag route, sprinting downfield, then breaking parallel to the line of scrimmage as Sherrill rolled in his direction.
As he made the catch inches from the sideline, Hampton performed one of those old-school, Raymond Berry tap-dances to keep his feet inbounds. The gain was 11 yards.
“When that play came in, I knew I had to make the catch and I had to get to the sticks,” Hampton said. “I looked it into my hands and was able to stay inbounds.”
That play was one more good reason for Sherrill to trust Hampton, who fulfills two roles ó sixth offensive lineman and third option in the passing game.
“We knew coming into this season we had Jon (Crucitti) as a receiver, and we had hopes for KaJuan (Phillips), and he’s come through,” offensive coordinator Joe Nixon said. “Now we’re using Patrick more.”
Both Nixon and Hampton credited assistant Durwood Bynum for the work he’s done with Hampton’s get-offs and route-running.
The last two weeks, Hampton has five catches for 98 yards. His season numbers ó 12 catches, 204 yards, two scores ó aren’t earthshaking, but he’s lost several big plays to flags.
“The Statesville game and East Rowan game I had big ones called back, but mishaps can happen when you’re trying to make a play work,” Hampton said.
Hampton is the younger brother of Ben Hampton (2,335 rushing yards at West) and Hillary Hampton Nixon (West’s all-time leading basketball scorer and the catcher on two state championship softball teams). That’s led to expectations, although there’s enough age difference that there hasn’t been any crazy pressure.
“Being that younger sibling, I’ve always gotten a lot of, ‘Do you think you’ll be as good as they were?’ ” Hampton said. “But it’s good. When I go home, Ben and Hillary are in my ear telling me they know I can do it. They tell me to eat right, get to bed early and stay out of trouble.”
Hampton has shot up to 6-foot-3, and his lean, 185-pound frame can hold many more pounds. Nixon, Hillary’s husband, is one more person in Patrick’s ear “making him do right.” He sees potential.
“Patrick’s found his niche as a tight end and is one of the best we’ve ever had,” Nixon said. “The catches are great, but his blocking is still the most important thing.”