Hopewell Holds off Matoaca, Wins Third Straight
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Oct 22, 2012, 15:11
The Hopewell High School football team huddles on the field before the second half kickoff of a Central District game against Matoaca on Friday. The Blue Devils withstood a late surge from the Warriors to win 38-21 in Chesterfield (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
CHESTERFIELD – Wobbled by two touchdowns in a one-minute span from Matoaca, the Hopewell football team found itself at a crossroads in the fourth quarter of a Central District game on Friday in Chesterfield.
The Blue Devils’ once-comfortable lead had vanished, the score suddenly knotted at 21-21 with 10:59 remaining. It was the kind of scenario on which seasons hinge.
A victory, which had seemed a foregone conclusion, would extend the Blue Devils’ winning streak to three games. A loss would diminish the team’s chances of making the Group AAA Division 5 playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The visitors opted for the former, and they did so convincingly. Hopewell closed the contest with 17 unanswered points to spoil Matoaca’s homecoming with a 38-21 road victory.
“I think this was a very big game,” said Hopewell coach Ricky Irby. “It’s a program builder. We were 4-2 and kind of on the cusp there, and Matoaca has been playing really good football. This was a game that we went into thinking, ‘This could really catapult us to something big.’”
Hopewell quarterback Reggie Butler was the catalyst. The 5-9, 182-pound jack of all trades rushed 28 times for 202 yards, completed four passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns and registered a 52-yard punt return.
And he did it all while doubling as a shut-down defensive back. Butler deferred the credit for his staggering statistics to the Blue Devils’ offensive front.
“The line played perfectly,” Butler said. “They executed well, and that gave me the opportunity to make some plays.”
But it was the Warriors who made the first play of the evening. Matoaca junior Khalil Coleman fielded the opening kickoff on his own 13-yard line, started towards the center of the field and darted back to the left sideline on his way to an 87-yard touchdown return.
The extra point gave the home team a 7-0 lead after 15 seconds of play, but Irby said his squad managed to keep its composure.
“We knew there was a long way to go and we didn’t panic,” Irby said. “We stuck to our game plan and we knew that our defense could make some plays to keep us in the ball game.”
Cornerback Jarvezz Brown-Taylor did just that, intercepting a pass to quell a Matoaca drive and set the stage for Hopewell to draw level. Butler took it from there, finding senior Shyheim Simpson with a 29-yard touchdown pass with 4:17 remaining in the opening quarter.
Butler gave Hopewell the lead late in the second quarter. The senior capped an 11-play, 60-yard drive with an 18-yard scoring scamper on a play-action quarterback keeper. Kicker Zack Hipps tacked on one of his five extra points shortly thereafter and the Blue Devils led 14-7 at the intermission.
“We have to start better,” said Matoaca coach Pat Manuel. “We didn’t play very well in the first half. We can’t wait until the second half to try to turn it on.”
Given excellent field position by Butler’s punt return, Hopewell doubled its advantage in the third quarter. The drive started at the Warriors’ 17-yard line and culminated in a five-yard touchdown plunge from Gabe Dupree, the first of his two scores on the night.
Matoaca answered with its next possession. On the first play of the fourth quarter, senior Rashan Cole reached pay dirt with a seven-yard sweep to the right side – his only carry of the night – to cut the deficit to 21-14.
Two plays later, Coleman intercepted Butler’s pass over the middle and returned it for a touchdown to provide the aforementioned deadlock.
But there was simply no stopping Butler on this night.
Despite being hobbled by cramps, the signal caller atoned for his only misstep of the game with a 52-yard run on the third play of the Blue Devils’ subsequent drive. The Warriors managed to limit the damage with a goal-line stand, but Hipps converted a 23-yard field goal to give Hopewell a 24-21 lead with 7:32 remaining.
Cue the floodgates.
Matoaca fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and Dupree made good use of the turnover by rumbling into the end zone in signature style to push the lead to 10. On the next play from scrimmage, Hopewell junior Tabyus Taylor snagged an interception and returned it to the end zone.
The touchdown was negated by a penalty, but Butler put the game out of reach with a 13-yard scoring pass to Taylor moments later. Facing fourth and eight, Taylor ran a fade route that conjured memories of his game-winning reception against Thomas Dale two weeks earlier.
Just as he did on that night, the 6-1, 195-pound receiver hauled in the jump ball to provide the final margin. Irby attributed the late-game resurgence to experience and applauded a stellar outing from his offensive line.
“This is a senior-laden group,” Irby said. “That senior leadership and the closeness of this group would not allow them to get down. We were positive, we knew we could move the football and I thought the line was outstanding tonight.”
The untimely fumble left Manuel lamenting what he dubbed “a bad break,” but the veteran coach said he was proud of the way his team rallied to tie the game.
“You can’t say enough about the effort,” Manuel said. “We made a few adjustments at halftime and we came out and played hard.”
Dupree complimented Butler’s production with 78 yards on the ground while Taylor racked up a game-high 43 receiving yards on three catches.
For the Warriors, Coleman rushed nine times for 46 yards and junior Scott Shook chipped in with 27. With the loss, Matoaca fell to 2-2 in district play, 3-4 overall. Matoaca will look to bounce back on Friday against Dinwiddie.
“That’s the beautiful thing about the Central District,” Manuel said. “Every week you have to come to play.”
The win, Hopewell’s first over Matoaca in eight years, moved the Blue Devils to 3-1 in district play, 5-2 overall. The team will look to extend its unbeaten streak to four games on Friday against Petersburg.