Lee-Davis Deals Hopewell First Loss
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Sep 17, 2012, 14:13
Hopewell High School football coach Ricky Irby (right) talks to his team during a timeout in a non-district football game against Lee-Davis at Merner Field on Friday. Lee-Davis scored late in the fourth quarter and held on to win 21-20 (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
HOPEWELL — Slow and steady won the race – but just barely.
On the strength of its unwavering running game, Lee-Davis outdueled a Hopewell offense that was equal parts explosive and self-destructive to win 21-20 on Friday at Merner Field in Hopewell.
The Confederates ran the ball early and often, claimed their first lead when Chris Simpson tumbled into the end zone from six yards out with 1:37 left to play and emerged victorious from the non-district matchup.
“We bent but we didn’t break,” said Lee-Davis coach Zac Hayden. “We just found a way at the end to win and we were lucky enough to pull it out. This was a good high school football game. It made me feel about 10 years older than I am right now.”
The Blue Devils registered 14 plays of 10 yards or more — four of 30 or more — but were ultimately undone by two fumbles and two interceptions.
“We talked about how you have to win the turnover battle,” said Hopewell coach Ricky Irby. “We did make a couple mistakes, but I can’t fault the kids’ effort. Our effort was tremendous and I give all the credit to coach Hayden and his team.”
Hopewell quarterback Octavious Taylor found a rhythm on the Blue Devils’ final drive of the first quarter. The senior completed passes to Donovan Ennis and Reggie Butler before finding Tabyus Taylor with a 30-yard touchdown strike as time expired.
Simpson reciprocated with a four-yard touchdown run on the Confederates’ next series. The opening scores were indicative of the two teams’ conflicting offensive ideologies. The steady Simpson rushed 33 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns while the free-wheeling Octavious Taylor generated 266 yards of total offense.
“Our game plan [centered on] field position and trying to control the clock,” Hayden said. “We try to keep our defense off the field as much as possible and it ended up working out in the end. It didn’t look like it was going to …”
Three times the Blue Devils scored to take the lead and three times the Confederates responded with touchdowns of their own. The only separation between the two squads at game’s end came from a missed extra point.
Lee-Davis quarterback Brandon Sulser (11) and running back Chris Simpson (7) were instrumental in the Confederates' game-winning drive on Friday (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
The teams retreated to the locker rooms at halftime with the scored tied at 7-7, but the Blue Devils reclaimed the lead three minutes into the third quarter with another Taylor-made touchdown.
Once again, Octavious Taylor capped a seven-play, 55-yard drive with a scoring toss to Tabyus Tayor, this time from 16 yards out.
“Tabyus Taylor had a heck of a game,” Irby said. “I don’t know how many yards he had, but he’s a monster. We try to get him the ball as much as we can and he made some big plays for us tonight.”
By the time the fourth quarter started, Simpson’s workman-like approach appeared to be taking a toll on the home team’s defense.
The senior racked up 29 yards on four consecutive carries up the middle, laying the groundwork for Deshaun Rogers’ five-yard scoring scamper with 9:14 remaining.
That made the score 14-14, but only until Octavious Taylor answered the bell again.
With just under eight minutes remaining, the multi-talented signal caller – whose prowess as a kick returner prompted the Confederates to opt for squib kicks all night — faked a handoff to Gabe Dupree and broke down the left sideline for a 30-yard touchdown.
“We respect [Octavious Taylor] for Hopewell,” Hayden said. “He’s a really good player.”
But things went awry for the Blue Devils after they failed to convert the extra point. Lee-Davis quarterback Brandon Sulser found Austin Rice for consecutive completions on the visitors’ final drive, setting the stage for Simpson’s late-game heroics.
“He’s a stud,” Hayden said of Simpson. “He’s what you want in a football player and in a kid.”
The loss drops Hopewell to 1-1 on the season, but Irby characterized the errors that plagued his team as “fixable.” The third-year coach said the setback will reveal the Blue Devils’ character.
“This is the first time we’ve really faced adversity this year,” Irby said. “I’m hoping my kids respond well to it, and we’re going to get ready to play Brunswick next week.”