Hampton doesn’t relinquish the favorite’s role, but star running back Phillip Waters’ ankle injury perhaps closes the gap a little bit.
“It’s bothering him pretty good,” said Hampton head coach Mike Lunsford. “I don’t know how much he will be able to play. It’s a big deal to us.”
The Bulldogs (9-1) will play host to Oneida (7-4) in the second round of the TSSAA Class 2A football playoffs. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 o’clock.
In the other area Class 2A contest, North Greene plays host to Oliver Springs.
Waters has rushed for 1,874 yards and scored 23 touchdowns this season, but was hurt in Week 10 against Cloudland. With a bye in the first round of the playoffs, Waters has had two full weeks to recover.
If he is limited, Lunsford said the backup plan includes the possibility of more passing and also shifting people around.
“We will probably change things up a bit,” said Lunsford. “Oneida looks awesome on pass defense, but we may have to do more of that.”
The Bulldogs do have a major luxury of having another 1,000-yard back in Justin Adkins, who has scored 20 touchdowns. They may rely more on him, and Lunsford said Eddie Olvera and lineman Taylor Edwards could also see action in the backfield.
Oneida presents a challenge to the Bulldogs in the form of running back Brandon Smith, quarterback Cole West, and receiver Houston West. Smith is also the teams’ leading tackler and sack man.
However, the Indians’ biggest threat may be kicker Douglas Manning. He has been very accurate this season, and has recorded a 47-yard field goal.
“They have a great kicker,” said Lunsford. “We can’t lose the kicking game. We may not kick it as far as their kicker does, but we can cover well and tackle well.”
One thing Lunsford said he liked about his team was its practice attitude this week.
“I’ve been real pleased,” he said. “They seemed very focused on everything and enjoyed practice a lot. It was probably the best practices we’ve had all year.”
Oliver Springs (7-4) at North Greene (6-4) — The Huskies seek their first-ever playoff victory, and it won’t be easy.
The Bobcats boast a 1,000-yard passer in Garrett Miller, who also has over 900 yards rushing. In the Oliver’s first-round win over Wartburg Central, the senior rushed for 123 yards and passed for 150 with two scoring strikes.
Also, the Bobcats have 1,000-yard rusher in Jordan Romero.
Mason Early leads the Huskies’ attack. He has rushed for over 650 yards and scored nine touchdowns on the season.