Hopewell, Hanover to Meet in Region Championship
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Nov 23, 2012, 16:54
Hopewell coach Ricky Irby celebrates with his team after the Blue Devils beat Dinwiddie 47-28 last week in the Central Region Division 5 semifinals. Hopewell and Hanover will play for the region crown at Merner Field on Friday at 7:30 p.m (photo by David Breidenbach).
HOPEWELL – The Hopewell High School football team’s 47-28 playoff victory over Dinwiddie last Friday was the latest example of the Blue Devils’ ability to score in bunches.
It was also record-breaking.
The shellacking broke the school mark for points scored in a postseason game. The previous record of 41 points was set in a win over Massaponax in the 2003 Virginia High School League Group AAA championship game.
“That’s pretty impressive,” said Hopewell coach Ricky Irby, who was an assistant coach on that team. “Hopefully we’ll keep it going.”
The Blue Devils will have an opportunity to do just that on Friday when the third-seeded squad plays host to No. 4 Hanover in the Central Region Division 5 championship game. And they have their well-oiled offense to thank for the chance.
Since senior Reggie Butler began taking snaps at quarterback in an Oct. 19 clash with Matoaca, Hopewell has won four of five games and averaged 36.8 points per contest.
Butler splits time under center with Octavious Taylor and both of the seniors also line up at running back and wide receiver. Moreover, both have connected with wide receiver Tabyus Taylor to devastating effect.
Irby said those three playmakers – all of whom garnered First-Team All-Central District honors in some capacity – compliment one another with unique skill sets.
“They all bring something different to the table,” Irby said. “[Octavious Taylor] is a pure athlete. The athleticism that he plays with and the effort that he gives each play are just unbelievable. Tabyus is a leaper – he’s got great ball skills.
“And Reggie has an understanding of the game of football that not many kids have.”
Hopewell’s re-tooled attack is going to need all the firepower it can muster if it’s going to oust Hanover. While this is the Blue Devils’ first playoff run in eight years, the Hawks have qualified for the postseason in each of the last seven.
Hanover – the reigning D-5 region champion – has reached the region final in every year since 2007, claiming three titles along the way.
But Irby said his team is undaunted by Hanover’s playoff pedigree. And if the Hawks’ reputation casts the Blue Devils as underdogs in spite of their higher-seeded status, that’s OK with the third-year coach, too.
“That’s fine with us,” Irby said. “We don’t really care. Once the lights come on, that’s all that really matters.”
This year’s Hanover team is led by fleet-footed quarterback Sam Rogers, among others.
“He’s a great player, no doubt,” Irby said. “But they’ve also got other weapons and we have to make sure we’re aware of those guys. [Lawrence Jones] at running back is real tough.”
The match-up will be an unfamiliar one for both parties. The two schools – separated by about 28 miles – have not met on the gridiron since the turn of the century.
In addition, Hanover and Hopewell have only one opponent in common this season: Lee-Davis, the top-seeded D-5 team in the region. The Confederates beat the Blue Devils 21-20 in Week 2 and edged the Hawks 10-6 in Week 8.
Hanover and Lee-Davis met again last week in the semifinals, however, and the Hawks claimed a 28-21 victory to earn the right to travel to Hopewell. The winner of Friday’s game will advance to the Group AAA D-5 semifinals, a prospect that Irby said has his team ready and raring.
“They’re focused,” Irby said. “I told them, ‘There’s only two teams practicing in Division 5 this week and you’re one of them. Enjoy it, don’t be satisfied with it, and stay hungry and aggressive.’
“I think we have as good a shot as any. Why not us?”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Merner Field in Hopewell.