Hopewell Kicks Off Season with Scrimmage
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Aug 19, 2012, 17:18
HOPEWELL – At first glance, the Hopewell High School football team is a vastly different entity than the squad that took the field on Friday nights in 2011.
The installation of new schemes and the addition of four new coaches have made for a hectic offseason. But after watching his squad don full pads for the first time in the annual Blue and White Game at Merner Field on Thursday, Hopewell coach Ricky Irby is pleased with the new-look Blue Devils.
That is, for the most part.
Members of the white team claimed bragging rights over their blue-clad opposition by scoring two late touchdowns to break open what had been a back-and-forth contest. The final score was 30-18.
Perhaps more importantly, the outing helped Irby identify his team’s strengths and weaknesses.
“I think I have some guys that can fly around and make plays on defense,” Irby said. “And we’ve got some big guys up front.”
While the transitions have been relatively smooth to date, the third-year coach said his team is not quite prepared for regular-season action. Most notably, the team needs to build up its stamina to successfully implement Irby’s hurry-up offense.
Neither team went no-huddle in the intrasquad scrimmage – both defenses would have recognized plays called at the line of scrimmage – but Irby still pushed his team to play at a rapid pace.
“We want to be an up-tempo team and I think we were dragging a little bit today,” Irby said. "We need to get in better shape because we have a lot of guys that are going to be [playing] both ways. We have to be moving.”
Of course, to effectively operate at such a rate, the Blue Devils will need a talented core of backups that can contribute when the time comes. For that reason, Irby identified depth – particularly on the offensive line – as an area of concern.
“We have to develop some guys and have them step up and be ready to go when they’re needed,” Irby said.
The contest, which was the first of three non-competitive games on Hopewell’s schedule, yielded little clarity in a heated quarterback competition. In all, four players are in contention for signal-calling privileges, but Octavious Taylor and Drake Scearce got the starting nods on Thursday.
Both showcased their running ability, but neither found much success in the passing game.
“We threw a couple deep balls [well],” Irby said. “But we didn’t read and deliver quickly like I want.”
Moses Tolbert and Brandon Scott are also in the conversation, but Irby tabbed Taylor as the frontrunner for now.
The hope is that the bevy of changes will reverse a troubling trend from last season. The Blue Devils lost seven games in 2011, five of which they led at some point. Naturally, closing out victories is another point of emphasis this year.
“We start every year with optimism,” Irby said. “I think we have a good team, and right now everybody is undefeated. We’re going to try to keep it that way.”
That quest officially begins when Hopewell plays host to Cosby on Sept. 7.