Twelve unblemished games into its most successful season, sixth-ranked Culpeper High still needed assurance not to be afraid when it lined up against Virginia's four-time defending AAA Division 5 state champion Hampton today. The "Hampton mystique," as Culpeper Coach Lou Sorrentino called it, had to be erased from his players' minds.
So Sorrentino popped in a videocassette of the feared Crabbers in action, and suddenly, his players' fears were deflated by a shot of confidence.
"After we saw the film on them Tuesday, we knew we could beat them," Culpeper wide receiver Terence Dinkins said. "Beating Hampton was our team's dream. We thought about this game for a long time."
And the Blue Devils will think about this game for even longer. Culpeper shocked nationallyranked Hampton, 20-17, in overtime at Darling Stadium, quashing the Crabbers' quest for a state record 17th state title and ending their 25-game winning streak.
Culpeper (13-0) will play for its first state championship next Saturday against Henrico at the University of Richmond at 1 p.m.
The Blue Devils took their first lead, 14-10, midway through the third quarter. Brandon Jones's one-yard touchdown run came three plays after Dinkins caught a 65-yard pass deflected by Hampton's Derrick Fenner that brought the ball to the Hampton 3.
Hampton struck back, a 62-yard drive capped by an 11-yard run by Hagans to make it 17-14.
It stayed that way until Culpeper's Mike Greenaway tied the game with a 32-yard field goal with 2 minutes 13 seconds left in regulation. The drive nearly died before Dinkins caught a 20-yard pass in triple coverage on fourth and six at the Hampton 24.
Culpeper began overtime with the ball, and after three incomplete passes in the end zone, Greenaway hit a 27-yard field goal.
Hampton, which outscored its opponents 548-26 this season and had not trailed in a playoff game since 1996 (a game the Crabbers won, 58-27), was a prohibitive favorite. The Crabbers had won the past four state title games by a combined 172-15. They had lost only once in 66 games prior to today.
"You see these big scores, you know, 44-0, 55-0, and it scares some people," Culpeper quarterback Mike Jenkins said. "But we take it as a challenge when we see that."
The Blue Devils put together a game plan perfectly suited to an underdog--try to stay close and hope late in the game to rattle the Crabbers, who have not played crunch-time football.
"Our whole mentality this week was just to hang in there," Culpeper wide receiver-linebacker Daniel Winning said. "We knew we weren't going to blow them out. They're not ranked number seven in the country for nothing."
Sorrentino hinted that had these teams met next weekend in the state title game, the outcome might be different.
"They weren't looking forward to playing us," Sorrentino said, shaking his head every time he peered up at the result on the scoreboard. "The state championship is the big game for them. I wouldn't say this was a fluke, but I wouldn't want to play them 10 times."
It was apparent early on Hampton could not bully Culpeper as it has other teams for the past few years. The Crabbers' first drive stalled at midfield when Winning stopped Hampton's Alexander Mann on a fake punt on fourth and 23.
Culpeper dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides. Jenkins, operating most effectively out of the shotgun, had plenty of time and was sacked only once. Culpeper's defense stuck to its plan of not allowing big plays from Hampton's sparkplug quarterback Marcus Hagans, limited the Crabbers to less than four yards per carry.