HAMPTON, VA., DEC. 8 -- It only took one year for the Gar-Field football team to go from bottom of the barrel to king of the hill.

The 10th-ranked Indians, who at this time last year had just completed a 2-8 season, defeated Hampton to win the Virginia Group AAA Division 6 championship, 13-12, today on a wet and muddy Darling Field.

Down 12-0 at halftime, Gar-Field (12-2), which has thrived on late comebacks, scored twice in the third quarter to win the school's first state title.

The winning touchdown came with 2:52 left in the quarter when Latroy Askew (who ran for 77 yards on 20 carries) scored on a two-yard run. The extra point by Matt Daly gave the Indians their one-point cushion.

"It's been this way all year," Gar-Field Coach Chuck White said. "I told the kids {at halftime} that we were a team of destiny. The thing that allows this team to win is heart and character."

After Gar-Field took the lead, Hampton (12-2) crossed midfield twice. Once, the Crabbers reached the Indians 27 and were held on downs. Late in the fourth quarter, the Crabbers drove to the 20 but Fred Brown's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Garland Scott with 2:48 left.

Gar-Field needed one first down to clinch the victory and got it when William Walker ran 18 yards on third and two. The Indians then ran out the clock.

White, who played for three bowl teams at the University of Maryland, said this was his best football moment ever.

That attitude was shared by the players, who weren't awed by the fact Hampton was playing in the championship game for the eighth time since 1975. The Crabbers have won 13 state titles, the most in Virginia high school history.

After the game ended, a brawl broke out in the middle of the field when a Hampton player reportedly slapped away an extended hand from a Gar-Field player, who was trying to shake.

"Coach told us not to let them intimidate us," Walker said. "He did not bring us up that way. We're a hard-nosed football team."

The Crabbers were able to get their footing on the muddy field first, midway through the first quarter. On a second down from his 31, Brown completed a 61-yard pass to Reginald Pitman, who stepped out of bounds on the Gar-Field 1. On the next play, Victor Williams scored on a run up the middle.

The Crabbers scored again on their next drive. Taking advantage of a bad punt that gave them the ball on the 50, Hampton moved to the Gar-Field 15, and then Brown found a wide open Wayne Spencer in the end zone to make it 12-0.

Gar-Field was only able to penetrate Hampton's side of the field once in the first half. With the aid of an 18-yard pass from Ron Hicks to Wes Gardner, the Indians moved to the Hampton 28. However, the Crabbers thwarted the drive when Hicks fumbled while trying to hand off. Hampton's John Cavanaugh recovered at his team's 41.

The Indians took the second half kickoff and scored after a drive of 50 yards in 11 plays. Askew scored with 6:48 left in the quarter to narrow the lead to 12-6.