Two unbeaten teams in the Mountain East Conference — one as expected and the other a surprise — meet at J.C. Campbell Stadium on Friday night at Hampton’s homecoming football game.
Hancock County (2-2 overall, 1-0 MEC) comes off a tough 36-26 loss to Rye Cove, Va. but coach Darrell Miller’s Indians would like nothing more than to dash the Bulldogs’ festivities.
“Hampton is probably the best team we’ll see all year,” Miller said. “All I could tell my guys is play hard for the whole game. We fell behind early last week and played comeback later, but we can’t afford any type of letdown against Hampton.”
The Indians upset and clearly outplayed Cloudland two weeks ago in Roan Mountain to earn themselves a measure of respect in the conference, but Hampton has its eyes squarely on the prize — which is the top spot in the conference.
“I know they are an improved team,” said Hampton quarterback Lane Smith. “We won’t take them for granted. We have our eyes focused on the prize and what we have to do on the field.”
Hampton (3-0 overall, 1-0 MEC) comes off a 43-20 dismantling of Unicoi County and the Bulldogs running game is at full throttle in 2011. Two weeks ago sophomore tailback Phillip Waters rushed for a school record 332 yards and three touchdowns in the ‘ Dogs 32-7 conference opening win against Cosby.
“We owe a lot to the play of our offensive line,” said Bulldogs head coach Mike Lunsford. “Taylor Edwards has done good at tackle, and Tyler Chambers at tight end has blocked extremely well. Justin Adkins and Tyler Trusler have done a good job and when you get those boys out in front of you, you should be able to gain yards.
“They have all done a great job of working hard and getting better. Hancock County is not a pushover and we won’t treat them like one. We’ll have to be ready. You don’t get no do-overs. You have to go out there when the game is played and play smart.”
Waters enjoyed another big game last week, rushing for 287 yards and three more scores against the Blue Devils. In his last two games Waters has gained 619 yards and scored six touchdowns.
The ‘ Dogs are no one-trick pony offensively however, as Smith has completed eight-of-11 passes (72.7 percent) for 163 yards and one touchdown — so Hampton is able to provide quick-strike moments offensively through the air.
Trusler, Waters and Adkins are very active defenders who do a good job of stopping the run of Hampton’s opponents, and they will go up against a good option run team in Hancock County. Hampton’s pass defense is no slouch either as Smith intercepted two passes from his safety spot in Hampton’s win over Unicoi County, and defensively the ‘ Dogs lead the takeaway-giveaway by a large margin.
Senior quarterback Stetson Sexton is the triggerman for the Indians’ offense and has rushed for 300-plus yards thus far. Freshman fullback Jacob Baker is a load when he gets a head of steam on the pitch.
“We have been doing better in the run game,” Miller said. “Our passing game hasn’t been what I envisioned, but we came back from 30 points down last week by staying with the ground game. We will just try to take it as if it’s 0-0 the entire game.
“The Bulldogs are easily the favorite to win this conference, and as far as I’m concerned everyone else is playing for second and lower. We will try to do what we do best, but I expect Hampton to try their best to take it away.”