HAMPTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – A season ago, the Bulldogs willed their way through a tricky regular season schedule and formidable postseason matchups to arrive in Chattanooga for the 2A state championship.

Hampton battled hard for four quarters, but came up shy of the school’s first championship in a 55-14 loss to Westview.

It would be the final game of quarterback Conor Jones’ career, after serving as the starting signal-caller for three years. A handful of offensive lineman also graduated this past spring, leaving head coach Michael Lunsford with some holes to fill.

However, Lunsford believes the most important part of last year’s group will remain with the Bulldogs program this season.

“Big season last year – had a lot of good players on last year’s football team,” he said. “A lot of good young men.” “

“We had a really good group of young men that knew what it meant to come to work, knew how to be disciplined, knew how to work hard – and, you know, they tried to set the standard for what this group is going to have to do as well,” he continued.

There is, no doubt, a desire to return to another state championship game this December. But, Lunsford said the pressure to return to that stage is no more than usual.

“Well, at Hampton I feel like there’s always a little bit of pressure because we, traditionally, have a pretty good football team,” he said.

But, to reach their goal of a state championship appearance or better, the coaches and players know their plan of attack on offense will have to change to better suit its strengths.

“We have a lot of speed – I mean, not so much height, but a lot of speed,” junior wide receiver and defensive back Chance Point said.

“I think we have more speed this year,” senior power back and defensive lineman Austin Bentley echoed. “We need to just maintain the same energy we had last year.”

“Just work hard in practice, win games and go back to the state championship – hopefully win it this year,” he continued.

Hampton’s work to return to Chattanooga begins on August 19 when the Bulldogs visit Pigeon Forge.