Monarchs Reign Supreme in Fourth Quarter
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Oct 2, 2012, 17:29
Meadowbrook quarterback Gerard Johnson (4), an Old Dominion University committee, turns the corner as Hopewell junior Tyler Smith (55) gives chase on Friday. The Monarchs scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 56-28 (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
RICHMOND – The Hopewell High School football players began the fourth quarter of their Central District opener against Meadowbrook with a renewed sense of self belief. They stepped off the field at game’s end in a collective daze, trying to figure out what went wrong.
The Blue Devils scored 11 seconds into the final frame to tie the game at 28-28, but Terelle Whitaker responded with a touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff and the Monarchs romped to a 56-28 win at Mack D. Moore Stadium in Richmond on Friday.
The return was Whitaker’s fourth touchdown of the game. Moments later, Alveon Truesdale snagged his third interception of the evening and scampered down the left sideline for the second of four unanswered Meadowbrook touchdowns.
“A couple big plays hurt us there with the kickoff return and the interception,” said Hopewell coach Ricky Irby. “We were in the game with them, but they’re a good team and we knew they were going to put some points on the board.”
The mistake-riddled finish overshadowed a promising start for the Blue Devils.
Hopewell’s first offensive series lasted 15 plays and spanned 77 yards. Moses Tolbert capped the voyage with a two-yard touchdown dive with 4:02 remaining in the opening quarter. The breakthrough came on the Blue Devils’ seventh straight snap from inside the Monarchs’ five-yard line.
Hopewell quarterback Octavious Taylor extended the visitors’ lead three minutes later on fourth and 10. The senior waited patiently for Reggie Butler to come open across the middle of the field before passing, allowing the wide receiver to scurry in from 13 yards out to make the score 14-0.
“It was a dog fight,” said Meadowbrook coach Troy Taylor. “They had us and we were down 14-0. I credit Ricky Irby and his staff. They did a really good job.”
It took the home team less than a minute to engineer a retort. Senior quarterback Gerard Johnson – bound for Old Dominion University next year – scored on a 25-yard, right-to-left scramble on the final play of the first quarter.
The next two Hopewell drives met the same unsavory fate in Truesdale’s arms, and Meadowbrook drew level on the first of three touchdown passes from Johnson to Whitaker with 4:42 left to play in the second quarter.
That duo was at it again two minutes later. Whereas the equalizing touchdown was made easier by a blown coverage from the Blue Devils, the go-ahead score required an inch-perfect delivery from Johnson.
The 5-9, 177-pound signal caller split two Hopewell defenders with a back-shoulder throw that Whitaker corralled to give Meadowbrook a 21-14 halftime lead.
Irby said the 21-point swing was spurred in part by a few well-implemented tactical changes from the home team.
“They made good adjustments,” Irby said. “They switched to a different defense. We had to counter that adjustment and it took us a couple series, but I thought we did. We just turned the ball over.”
Given excellent field position by an interception from Butler, the Blue Devils tied the game on Octavious Taylor’s quarterback sneak mid-way through the third quarter. But Whitaker put the Monarchs out front once again with a dazzling 58-yard touchdown catch and run less than two minutes later.
Somehow left alone on a 20-yard route, the 5-11, 155-pound junior turned a big play into a touchdown with a cut against the grain that befuddled the Blue Devils’ secondary.
“Anytime you play Meadowbrook, you know they’re going to have a lot of speed,” Irby said. “They have a lot of playmakers.”
Trailing 28-21, Hopewell repeated the touchdown do-si-do one more time before Meadowbrook broke the game open. The Blue Devils forced and recovered a fumble deep in Monarchs territory, setting the stage for Octavious Taylor to reach pay dirt on another quarterback keeper up the middle.
Zack Hipps converted his fourth straight extra point to produce the aforementioned deadlock with 11:49 left in the fourth quarter. The back and forth seemed destined to continue for the duration of the contest.
Cue Whitaker’s game-altering return.
The junior hauled in an end-over-end kick and started to his right before breaking to the left sideline.
“I caught it and I saw a whole lot of blocking,” Whitaker said. “When I ran to the sideline, I just saw the kicker so I told [my teammate] to block him. I just wanted to go full speed and put the game away.”
Truesdale tacked on the pick six 36 seconds later and running back Earl Hughes provided the final margin with two rushing touchdowns.
The surge was made possible by a pair of fumbles that occurred when two squib kicks from Meadowbrook’s Jonathan Gonzalez bounced off Hopewell players.
“We just got lucky on a couple kickoffs,” said Troy Taylor. “They just nicked a couple people on their front line and we got the ball back.”
Those miscues brought the Blue Devils’ turnover tally to eight – four fumbles and four interceptions. Irby said self-inflicted setbacks were the difference in the game.
“We made some mistakes that hurt us,” Irby said. “Too many turnovers, too many penalties and we have to play more disciplined than that if we want to beat a good football team like Meadowbrook.”
The loss drops the Blue Devils to 0-1 in district play, 2-2 on the season. Hopewell is next in action on Friday against Thomas Dale.
Johnson finished with 179 yards on a 10-for-21 passing performance and racked up 154 yards on the ground for Meadowbrook, which improved to 3-1. Whitaker caught five balls for 87 yards.
“I just had to turn it up for my team,” Whitaker said. “I didn’t want to lose this game.”