After their ninth straight Mountain East conference title last season, Hampton has their sights set on making it 10 straight. However, this year’s group of Bulldogs want more than a conference crown.
The Bulldogs, coached by Mike Lunsford, went 7-4 last season after starting off 2-3. Hampton rallied to win five straight, all five in conference play, to claim the conference crown with a 21-12 Week 10 victory over Cloudland.
This year’s squad will look to capitalize on the adversity that the 2013 squad faced after losing several players to injury. Because of that, Lunsford and his staff have already seen marked improvements from last season.
“We are a long way from where we were last year – we are miles ahead of where we were this time last year,” Lunsford said. “I think defensively a thousand times better than we were last year at time.”
Offensively, Hampton will look to a talented group of skill players led by junior quarterback Coby Jones. Jones showed promise last season despite seeing his receiving group decimated by injuries. This season, however, will see Jones have him choice of weapons in Dillion Ford, Caleb West and Tyler Moody. Ford was Player of the Year for the Mountain East Conference in addition being named All-State preseason for his role as a punter.
In the backfield, Jones will be joined by a powerful duo in the running back slot with Adam McClain and Jerry Lunsford, who missed seven games last season due to injury. While all the players have another year under their belt, Lunsford noted that most have gained 20-25 pounds in weight and improved their speed.
Hampton will have to replace three starters on the offensive and defensive line, but Zach Guinn, Lucas Holtsclaw and Jon Cole will anchor the offensive and defensive line. Cole was named to the first team All-State preseason team.
The Bulldog defense will look for McClain to step up defensively as well as see J. Lunsford pick up where he left off before his injury last season. In the first four games, J. Lunsford led the Bulldogs in tackling.
However, Lunsford indicates that the Bulldogs biggest key defensively will be to stay consistent on the defensive line while using a six-to-seven player rotation.
Hampton opens the 2014 season at Unicoi County with trips to Unaka, Johnson County, Cosby and Hancock County on the docket. The Bulldogs will open the home portion of their schedule against Onieda in Week Two, and will host Happy Valley, North Greene, South Greene and Cloudland at home.