Blue Devils Topple Titans in Season Opener
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Sep 10, 2012, 13:29
Hopewell quarterback Octavious Taylor (5) tries to turn the corner against Cosby junior Austin Noel (19) in a non-district game on Friday at Merner Field. Taylor led the Blue Devils to a 21-19 victory in his first game under center (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
HOPEWELL – The Hopewell High School football team prevailed in several key situations throughout its season-opening victory over Cosby on Friday, and more often than not there was a simple explanation.
The Butler did it.
Reggie Butler, that is. The senior wide receiver and defensive back hauled in a touchdown catch, registered an interception and broke up a last-minute two-point conversion attempt as the Blue Devils held on to win 21-19 at Merner Field in Hopewell.
The triumph exacted a measure of revenge for the Blue Devils, who had fallen to the Titans at the onset of each of the last five seasons.
“Our kids had heart,” said Hopewell coach Ricky Irby. “They never quit playing and they believed.”
Octavious Taylor also found success in his first game as Hopewell’s starting quarterback, though his most meaningful contributions did not come from under center.
Taylor blocked a field goal, picked up the ball and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown that made the score 21-13 with 9:33 remaining in the game. The senior also sealed the victory by pouncing on the Titans’ onside kick in the final seconds.
“We made adjustments and we made the plays when we had to,” Irby said. “We made the play on the two-point conversion – Reggie Butler was huge. And on the onside kick, who else recovered it but [Taylor]. The will to win … these guys had it.”
The Blue Devils took a 2-0 lead in the first quarter after a high snap eluded the Cosby punter on fourth down and resulted in a safety.
Taylor returned the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to the Titans’ 21-yard line and found Butler with a nine-yard strike four plays later to extend the gap to 8-0.
Cosby responded in electrifying fashion on the next series. Senior quarterback Aaron Birnbaum delivered an inch-perfect pass to junior Tyler Fitzgerald, who evaded his defender on a slant route for a 46-yard touchdown.
That pulled the visitors to within two points at 8-6, but Gabe Dupree re-established some breathing room for Hopewell with a 10-yard scoring scamper with 2:26 remaining in the second quarter.
Leading 15-6, the Blue Devils were seemingly well-positioned to take a two-score advantage into the halftime break. Instead, last year’s Dominion District runners up pieced together an eight-play, 74-yard drive that culminated in a six-yard touchdown scramble from Birnbaum as time expired.
The offensive production slowed to a standstill in the second half. Hopewell netted just nine yards on its first three drives of the third quarter. Meanwhile, the fleet-footed Titans tried to no avail to wrong-foot the Blue Devils with a variety of misdirection runs.
Irby said containing the Titans’ trickery out of the backfield was a point of emphasis in his team’s game plan.
“We practiced for it,” Irby said. “We saw it on film. In certain formations and certain downs and distances, we kind of had an idea of what they were going to do.”
Cosby missed what would have been a go-ahead field goal in the third quarter, but a botched punt gave the Titans good field position early in the fourth.
After three ineffective plays, the visitors opted to try another field goal, this one from 43 yards out.
Cue Taylor’s block.
“As I saw the gap, I was second guessing about going in extra hard,” Taylor said. “But I went in, saw the ball in the air and jumped.”
That leap did the trick. The ball careened off Taylor and came to a rest near midfield before the 6-foot, 172-pound senior scooped it up and won a footrace to the end zone.
But the Blue Devils could not connect on the extra point attempt, making the score 21-13 and leaving the door ajar for the Titans.
Just as he did in the first half, Birnbaum engineered a methodical response. The 5-10, 160-pound signal caller capped a 65-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown run that was reminiscent of his first scoring effort.
That cut the deficit to 21-19 and made for a de facto one-down game as Cosby needed to convert a two-point conversion to force overtime.
Butler had other ideas, however, and batted away a deft pass from Birnbaum to give Hopewell its first season-opening win since 2004.
“I basically read the quarterback’s eyes,” Butler said. “He lobbed the ball up, so it was easy.”
Taylor completed three passes for 88 yards and racked up 55 yards on 14 carries for the Blue Devils.
Birnbaum, who had a hand in all three touchdowns for Cosby, completed 11 passes for 169 yards.
Hopewell (1-0) will play host to Lee Davis, which lost to Hermitage in Week 1, on Friday at Merner Field.