Third-Quarter Flurry Floats Blue Devils
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Oct 30, 2012, 10:56
Hopewell seniors Shyheim Simpson (21) and Terence Terry (44) tackle Petersburg’s Preston Lewis (1) on Friday at Merner Field in Hopewell (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
HOPEWELL – These are good days to be the Hopewell High School quarterback. Supremely athletic and brimming with confidence, the Blue Devils boast a bevy of wide receivers with game-changing capability.
Just ask Petersburg.
Hopewell hauled in four touchdown passes of 20 yards or more – three of which came in a two-minute span in the third quarter – to beat Petersburg 36-14 in a Central District game on Friday at Merner Field in Hopewell.
Shyheim Simpson, Donovan Ennis, Tabyus Taylor and Octavious Taylor all beat man-to-man coverage and corralled scoring strikes from quarterback Reggie Butler, who also ran for a touchdown.
“We have very versatile athletes,” said Hopewell coach Ricky Irby. “We just want to try to create mismatches and get them out in space.”
But while the third quarter offered a glimpse of the Blue Devils’ untapped potential, the first two were riddled with missteps and untimely penalties. Hopewell was docked 66 yards on eight infractions in the first half alone.
A 27-yard field goal from Hopewell kicker Zack Hipps was all that separated the two teams at the end of the first quarter. The offensive woes persisted deep into the second quarter, but the Crimson Wave surged ahead with 2:57 remaining in the opening half.
With the Hopewell pass rush in hot pursuit, Petersburg quarterback Khalid Morris unloaded a short pass to Markice Street near the right sideline. Street turned what appeared to be a short gain into an 85-yard touchdown catch and run, criss-crossing from right to left in the process.
The subsequent 8-3 lead proved to be short-lived, however, as the Blue Devils mustered an immediate response.
On the ensuing drive, Butler heaved a pass deep down the right side that Simpson managed to pull down despite tight coverage. Afterward, the 5-10, 155-pound wideout shed a tackle and tip-toed down the sideline for a 53-yard score that gave the home team a 10-8 halftime lead.
It took four minutes of second-half action for the Blue Devils to blow the back-and-forth contest wide open. After both teams turned the ball over on botched snaps to start the third quarter, Butler pushed the lead to 16-8 with a 24-yard pass to Ennis.
Ennis caught the offering, shimmied free of a Petersburg defensive back and dove across the plain for his first touchdown of the year with 9:26 remaining in the frame.
“When [Ennis] and [Simpson] start stepping up like they have been, that makes our offense explosive,” Irby said.
The Blue Devils’ defense did its fair share, too.
Teandrey Taylor snagged an interception on the next play from scrimmage and Butler found Tabyus Taylor with a well-measured touch pass down the left sideline for a 24-yard touchdown shortly thereafter to push the lead to 22-8.
Petersburg fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, setting the stage for Butler to deliver his third touchdown pass in 75 seconds. This time Butler’s toss – another far-flung effort – dropped perfectly into the arms of a streaking Octavious Taylor.
“[The first half] was very frustrating,” Irby said. “But we have a lot of seniors on this team and we didn’t panic. We knew we were in for a tough game, and it’s been like that for us all year.”
Octavious Taylor, who has thrown five touchdown passes and registered seven scores on the ground so far this season, said the 51-yard reception was a first for him.
“That was the first touchdown pass I’ve ever caught in a game,” Octavious Taylor said. “I always ran, so that was really exciting.”
But the scoring barrage stopped just as quickly as it started. Quadree Walker cut the deficit to 29-14 with 4:55 remaining in the third by jarring the ball free from a Hopewell running back and returning it 79 yards the other way for a touchdown.
The Crimson Wave nearly made the contest a one-score affair in the fourth quarter, but their seven-play drive was halted by a fourth-down sack courtesy of Hopewell junior Tyler Smith.
Butler restored the 22-point advantage with a six-yard scoring scamper with less than five minutes remaining.
Butler and Octavious Taylor shared quarterbacking duties with Butler garnering a slight majority of the snaps. Irby said the tandem approach opens up a wealth of new possibilities for the Blue Devils’ offense.
“I thought Reggie threw the ball great tonight,” Irby said. “He was amazing throwing the football, and he was the hot hand. We have two kids that can play quarterback, running back and receiver. We’re going to line them up and play football.”
There is plenty of football yet to be played.
Next up for Hopewell (4-1, 6-2) is a game against Dinwiddie. The winner of that matchup will be well-positioned to claim a Group AAA Division 5 playoff spot.
Despite his team’s four-game winning streak, Irby said beating Dinwiddie is always a tall order.
“They’re well-coached,” Irby said of the 5-3 Generals. “They’re not going to be out of position. If you’re going to beat Dinwiddie, you’re going to have to do it with sound technique. They have athletes, they’re very good at what they do and it’s going to be a tough game for us.