It wasn’t a record-setting performance, but Hampton senior running back Phillip Waters is making the spectacular seem almost mundane.
Waters rushed for 188 yards on just nine carries and scored six touchdowns, including an interception return, as Hampton outpaced Hancock County 56-20 on Friday night at J.C. Campbell Stadium.
Waters is closing in on 1,000 rushing yards at the halfway point of the season with 894 — and could reach 2,000 if he continues to dominate the way he has thus far. Waters has also scored 13 touchdowns.
“The Lord keeps blessing me more and more,” said Waters. “I give the credit to my blocking backs and the o-line. They played great. This team is stepping up to the challenge of playing better each and every week. This is a great team we have here and I love every one of these guys.”
After a Brady Tolley interception of Hancock County quarterback Stetson Sexton’s first pass of the night, the Bulldogs marched 56 yards on seven plays with Waters scoring on a two yard run.
Senior kicker Eddie Olvera was good on eight consecutive point-after kicks as he was slated for only those duties due to an elbow injury.
On Sexton’s second pass of the night, he overthrew his intended receiver and found Waters deep in the secondary — and Waters returned the pick 65 yards, weaving in and out of traffic to paydirt to give Hampton (4-0 overall, 2-0 Mountain East Conference) a 14-0 lead.
“I had dropped a couple the past few games,” Waters said. “So when I got this one I knew I better do something with it. The team stepped up and blocked great down field.”
Hancock County (2-3 overall, 1-1 MEC) found some offensive rhythm on its next possession and drove 70 yards on 10 plays, with Sexton scoring on a 3-yard run to make it a 14-7 contest.
On the Bulldogs’ next possession Waters found room to run on the home sideline after taking a pitchout from quarterback Lane Smith and raced 78 yards on the first play to give Hampton a 21-7 advantage.
“The line did a good job of blocking and getting Waters through the hole,” said Bulldogs head coach Mike Lunsford. “Once he gets through the hole its been usually six points. We replaced five starters on the front line, but these guys are improving and getting better every week.”
On the night Hampton forced five turnovers — three fumbles and two picks — from the Indians, who found a way to attack the Bulldog defense with an option running offense. The Tribe had 208 yards of offense against the highly regarded ‘Dogs defenders, but the end result did not please Indians head coach Darrell Miller.
“We’re getting better, you can see that with each week,” Miller said. “We have quite a few seniors, but they are inexperienced and are prone to mistakes. As they get a better understanding of what were doing, things will get better for us. Waters is a tremendous athlete, I sure wish to God I had one like him.
“That kind of speed and quickness is what we lack, but we fought hard from start to finish, we didn’t quit, and if we keep improving I think we’ll make a run at it.”
After a Hancock fumble, Waters capped a four-play, 15-yard drive with a 9-yard scamper for his third touchdown of the evening and a 28-7 Bulldogs lead.
The Indians put the ball on the ground once again on their next possession, and this time it was Anthony Holtsclaw on the recovery for Hampton, setting up the Bulldogs offense at the 32.
Smith connected with Waters on a 51-yard scoring pass to make it 35-7 at the half and the rout was on.
“We could have quit at that point, but I challenged the kids to play the entire game,” said Miller. “We played well in the second half, against their first team defense. We found some plays that worked for us and we ran them with no mistakes.
“My hat is off to coach Lunsford, he has a tremendous program here.”
After Hampton scored on its first drive of the second half on a 1-yard run by Justin Adkins, who went unnoticed in this game but rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown, Hancock County went on its best drive of the night.
The Indians went 55 yards on five plays, with Sexton connecting with split end Matt Seal on a 26-yard touchdown pass to cut the ‘Dogs lead to 42-13.
“Hancock County did some good things out there,” Lunsford said. “It wasn’t just mistakes we made they ran the option pretty well, especially in the second half. They played hard and didn’t quit.”
Smith hit Mark Ailport on a 10-yard scoring pass at the end of the third period as Hampton built a 49-13 lead, but Hancock fought back to score on a 20-yard run by Michael Canter before Waters finished his magnificent game with a 26-yard scoring run.
Hampton travels to Mountain City next week for a rematch with Johnson County, whom the ‘Dogs routed 30-7 in week one.