HAMPTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – With the Region 1-2A regular season title hanging in the balance on Friday night, Hampton trailed rival South Greene, 7-6.
But, one Bulldog was determined to turn the tide.
“He’s standing at the door of the locker room,” Hampton head coach Michael Lunsford recalled. “He’s the first kid in there – and every kid coming in there he’s saying ‘Let’s go – get your head up.'”
Junior running back and linebacker Dominique Burleson did exactly that.
“It’s a big rivalry game ever since freshman year,” he said. “I just went out there and just wanted to play good.”
With the home squad now leading 13-7 in the third quarter, the Rebels fired what looked like an incomplete pass – but Burleson never slowed down.
“I remember at practice, we was practicing when they throw it behind – get on it no matter what,” he explained.
He scooped up the ball and took the fumble 48 yards the other way for a score.
“I was about to hear a whistle, I thought,” Burleson said. “And I didn’t get one so I kept running.”
“Probably made the biggest play in the biggest game,” Lunsford said. “I said that’s just what Dom does – he shows up when the lights are on.”
Burleson showed up on both sides of the ball in a big spot, adding 38 carries for 210 yards and another touchdown on offense.
“It’s just my teammates,” he explained. “When they get hyped – I love seeing them get hyped and it makes me get hyped.”
But, there’s more to the junior than just hype. Lunsford says the young man brings a certain toughness to the Dawgs that sets a standard for others to follow.
“The thing that kind of surprises you about Dom, his best runs a lot of times aren’t on sweeps and gadget plays and things like that – they’re lining up and coming right at you,” Lunsford said. “He runs downhill and hardnosed.”
“That’s the type of leadership he brings – he’s just a tough hard-nosed kid.”
Hampton will rely on that toughness and leadership throughout the playoffs, which begin against Polk County (4-6) on Friday night.
“I think it’s going to be crazy-loud and just exciting,” Burleson said.
“It’s huge to be here,” Lunsford said. “It’s a little more routine – you don’t get out of your routine so much. You’ve got the homes stands, the home crowd here right behind your back. That means a lot to the kids.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.