Hampton enjoys nice turnout for spring football
By Wes Holtsclaw
The ingredients for a successful Mike Lunsford led football team never change.
Strong athletes in the backfield, a beefy attack-at-will line and an array of complementary players that fill their roles exceptionally.
Looking at the returning experience and the new faces to hit the gridiron this spring for Hampton High School, the potential is there for an exciting summer and 2014 season for the Bulldogs.
According to Lunsford, a productive offseason in the weight room fed into a two-week workout session that was capped by a strong scrimmage against Sullivan East.
“We had good numbers,” Lunsford said of spring practice. “Had between 40-45 every day. We had quite a bit of experience — a lot more experience than we had last year. We worked on some new stuff and that was pretty much all we did in the spring. The numbers were good, the enthusiasm was good and the kids worked good. Everything went pretty well.”
Last season, the Bulldogs finished 7-4 overall with a 28-21 second round loss to Silverdale Academy in the second round of the TSSAA Class 2A playoffs. The biggest thing for Hampton was maintaining its Mountain East Conference perch with an unblemished 6-0 mark in league play despite tough challenges from South Greene and Cloudland.
The Bulldogs entered spring looking to fill vacated roles from guys like Boo Dugger, Tre Brown, Tristan Robinson, Juan Pearson and Aaron Coleman — hard-working grinders.
On the flip side, Lunsford said his squad had as many as eight or nine starters on offense and defense depending on whether they were in a Power I or spread formation but had some younger kids coming on to play hard.
“I think we’ve got a couple that can compete a little bit,” said Lunsford.
As expected rising junior quarterback Coby Jones, rising senior running back Dillon Ford and rising sophomore back Adam McClain filled their roles well in the skill positions. McClain, perhaps, is in line for a breakout campaign while rising senior Jacob Smith had some strong work.
On the line John Cole and Zack Guinn gave strong efforts with the latter playing his best football according to the head coach.
“Coby, Dillon Ford, McClain, we knew what they were going to do,” Lunsford said. “McClain looked really strong running the ball. He was pretty successful. Jacob Smith was good, John Cole, Zack Guinn played the best football he’s ever played as far as I’m concerned.”
In the scrimmage against Sullivan East, the Bulldogs found some success on both sides of the football, but coaches were able to get a good look at the younger players on the team in preparation for summer workouts and training.
Among the players to shine were Lucas Holtsclaw, Dylan Holsclaw, Colton Walker, Bailey Johnson and Dakota Sanchez.
“We did some things good, did some things real well,” said Lunsford. “We had some kids — basically we knew what our older kids could do, we were wanting to see what some of our younger kids could do in some situational things.
“Out of those that gained some experience was Lucas Holtsclaw and Dylan Holsclaw, both are seniors but neither one played last year, they played the year before last. Lucas played tight end and Dylan played wingback. Lucas probably had as good of a scrimmage as anybody. He’s about 6-2, 310 pounds. He moved well, played tight end and blocked really well. Dylan, he had a good scrimmage and played defensive end for us.
“Colton Walker and Bailey Johnson played the defensive ends for us some and both of them did a pretty good job. Dakota Sanchez is a sophomore, played fullback for us. He’s 260 pounds. We wanted to see how he could do and he had a really good spring, I thought, and did some good things for us.”
Another player to keep an eye on is Jerry Lunsford, who was in line for a prominent season carrying the football before an ACL injury sidelined him for the year. Lunsford practiced without pads during the spring and looks good according to his uncle.
“He’s had a really productive offseason, he’s gotten a lot stronger and a lot bigger,” Mike Lunsford said. “I thought he would lose some speed with the surgery, but he’s probably right where he was. We’re hoping by the end of the summer we’ll have him a little faster than he was last year.”
Lunsford gave his players two weeks off following spring practice before summer lifting and workouts resume.
The veteran coach has been pleased with the participation thus far.
“We’ve had really good participation,” Lunsford added. “As a matter of fact, I told them they had to take off two weeks after spring practice. A lot of them were wanting to go back in and start lifting the next day, but I told them it was all clinics for a couple of weeks. We had some kids down there flipping tires and stuff yesterday. They want to get better. They’re a hard-working group.”
The preseason schedule includes a 16-team passing league July 11 and 12 at Hampton with scrimmages set at Avery County (N.C.) and against one of the Sullivan County schools.
Hampton’s regular season grid includes home games with Oneida, Happy Valley, North Greene, South Green and Cloudland with road tilts at Unicoi County, Unaka, Johnson County, Cosby and Hancock County.