ERWIN — How do you follow up a school-record performance?
If you’re Phillip Waters, you run wild for a second straight week.
One week after torching Cosby for a school-record 332 rushing yards, Waters rushed for 275 yards and three touchdowns to lead Hampton to a 43-20 victory over Unicoi County on Friday at Gentry Stadium.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior had just 21 carries which included four runs over 25 yards and another one of 27 yards called back which would have given him over 300 yards for a second straight week.
“The Lord has blessed me,” said Waters. “I couldn’t have done it without him. I couldn’t have done it without my blocking backs either. They did an incredible job.”
All total, Hampton’s backfield of Waters, Justin Adkins, Tyler Trusler and quarterback Lane Smith ended with 364 rushing yards as the Bulldogs improved to 3-0 on the season.
Trusler also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Smith for the Bulldogs’ first score.
Veteran head coach Mike Lunsford said he would put up the current Hampton backfield against any he’s ever coached or coached against.
“I’ve had some great players, but Phillip, Adkins and Trusler, I’ll put them up against any three I’ve seen,” Lunsford said. “I don’t usually brag about my kids that much, but I believe in them that much.
“What I like, they’re getting the tough yards they didn’t get a year ago. We get a little knick on our shin or a gnat in our eye and we’re still going to finish the play.”
It was Hampton’s seventh straight win in the rivalry against the Blue Devils, who fell to 2-2 on the season. However, there were plenty of positives for Unicoi County, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The Blue Devils actually outgained Hampton in total offense 412-388 as quarterback Austin Hensley ended with 20-of-34 passing for 267 yards. Receiver Hunter Goodard made nine catches for 116 yards and Chase Honeycutt had six receptions for 101 yards.
Hunter Abbott added balance on the ground with 21 carries for 127 yards and all three of the Devils’ touchdowns.
“We did a lot of good things other than we had four turnovers,” Unicoi County head coach Jerad Huskins said. “You can’t beat the third-ranked team in the state with four turnovers. Hampton’s kids made plays and good teams do that.
“We played a solid game except we couldn’t get it in the end zone. It’s frustrating.”
The Blue Devils did put together an impressive opening drive, going 72 yards on 17 plays and taking nearly 81â„2 minutes off the clock.
Abbott blasted through a hole on the the right side for a 1-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
However, the Bulldogs immediately responded with a five-play drive ending with the aforementioned pass from Smith to Trusler. An extra-point by Eddie Olvera gave Hampton a 7-6 advantage.
Back-to-back runs of 46 yards by Justin Adkins and a 29-yard touchdown by Waters helped the Bulldogs go up 14-6 at the half.
Hampton stretched the lead out to 36-6 early in the fourth quarter before a couple of Unicoi touchdowns cut the lead to 36-20. After the Blue Devils attempted an onside kick, Waters put the final nail in the Devils’ chances by going 51 yards up the left side for a touchdown.
“He made some great plays, but his best as far as I was concerned was a three-yard gain where he was hit four yards in the backfield and spun out of a couple of tackles,” Lunsford said about Waters. “He really did a good job.”
With over 600 yards in just two weeks, Waters is on pace to easily break the 1,000-yard barrier before the Bulldogs’ season reaches its halfway point. He said the credit for his and the other backs’ big numbers goes to the guys up front.
“Our team is doing a great job getting us to the outside,” Waters said. “That’s where I’ve been making those big runs. We had a stack 3 and 4 formation to get us to the outside.”
Hampton will host Hancock County next Friday night, while Unicoi County will prepare for its big rivalry game with Happy Valley.