Momentum can be a fickle friend.
So even though Hampton has spent the whole season building it, the Bulldogs don’t want to let any slip away as they travel to play county rival Happy Valley.
“You definitely want to play well,” said Hampton head coach Mike Lunsford. “You don’t want to start doing things wrong or making mistakes. You don’t want go into the playoffs limping and not playing your best. Confidence is definitely an important thing.”
The Bulldogs (8-0) will take on the Warriors (4-4) tonight with kickoff set for 7:30.
In other area games, Unaka plays host to Unicoi County, Cloudland travels to play Sullivan East, and Johnson County is at home to take on Norton (Va.) J.I. Burton. In the Blue Ridge Conference, Greeneville is the home team against Grainger, Chuckey-Doak hits the road to face West Greene, and South Greene plays host to Claiborne.
Hampton reworked its offensive line before the season started, but it’s not evident from the ground attack. Running backs Phillip Waters (1,668) and Justin Adkins have found over 2,500 yards worth of running room.
Still, Lunsford said he sees areas for improvement.
“There are still a lot of things I see,” he said. “Even if we played 20 games, I would still look for things we could improve on.”
Lunsford said his team will be challenged against the Warriors, especially because Happy Valley is playing better.
“They’ve changed a lot,” said Lunsford. “I watched the North film and they look better on offense than at other times in the season. They present a big challenge.”
Most notably, Lunsford is concerned about running back Jaylen Simmons (601 yards rushing, 5 TDs).
“He’s probably as good as any kid in the area,” said Lunsford. “If you draw one up, he’s about perfect. And the quarterback (Seth Davis) runs well, too.”
These teams have evenly split the last 14 games. Happy Valley won 29-12 last year.
Unicoi County (2-6) at Unaka (2-6) — The Blue Devils got their passing game in high gear last week, and will be looking to keep it rolling against the Rangers.
Quarterback Austin Hensley is among the area’s passing leaders with 1,223 yards on the season.
Cloudland (1-7) at Sullivan East (6-2) — It should be smooth sailing for the Patriots, who enter as a heavy favorite but must avoid thinking too much about next week’s battle against Elizabethton.
J.I. Burton (6-1) at Johnson County (0-8) — A long season for the Longhorns doesn’t get any easier this week.
Burton has been an offensive powerhouse this season, scoring over 50 points twice and over 40 points five times.
Grainger (2-2, 3-5) at Greeneville (4-0, 7-1) — It has been a decent season for the Grizzlies, but they will be up against a wall this week.
Greeneville has won 31 of its last 33 games. The Greene Devils have been remarkably consistent on defense, allowing the following point totals this season: 18, 14, 14, 14, 14, 7, 0, 7.
Chuckey-Doak (3-1, 6-2) at West Greene (4-1 6-3) — The Black Knights don’t want to hit a two-game losing streak this late in the season, but the Buffaloes present a tough challenge.
Claiborne (1-3, 2-6) at South Greene (1-3, 4-4) — This game is very important for the Rebels’ playoff hopes. A fifth win likely will put them in the postseason mix.