Hopewell's Growing Pains
By Ryan Lazo
Aug 30, 2013, 07:37
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — Head coach Ricky Irby warned that there would be days like this. He warned that there would be growing pains. But even this was not what he expected.
The Blue Devils’ defense was gashed multiple times for big runs, including a 22-yard rush off the edge for a Clover Hill touchdown. As he crossed the endzone line, giving Clover Hill the 6-0 lead, Hopewell’s players stared at each other, confused as to what exactly happened.
It’s the sign of a team on a learning curve, but with the season just one week away, they don’t have long to correct the mistakes.
“We not only have a lot of young guys, but inexperienced guys as well who just haven’t had that experience yet,” Irby said with a sigh after his team suffered a 20-7 setback in its final exhibition. “They’re working through it and we’re going to work through it with them.
Yes, the Blue Devils will get better, but the time frame of when they do will determine if this team can build off of last season’s playoff run.
And that quest to do so just was made more difficult when it was announced star quarterback and wide receiver Tabyrus Taylor is no longer donning the Blue and White. Taylor is reportedly now playing with John Marshall, a move that puts Hopewell in a bind.
Taylor represented a jack-of-all trades for the Blue Devils, giving Irby a weapon other teams would have to prepare to stop all week. With him gone there is now a void that can not be filled with just one player, but has to be a conjoined effort.
“We’re going to take the guys that are here and are committed to our program and make them the best they can be,” Irby said when addressing Taylor. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
The good news for Irby is there is talent to work with, although it will need some seasoning and preparation before it is ready for prime-time.
And one of those future talents Irby has at his disposal is Cameron Hill, a freshman quarterback and defensive back. Hill took a few series at quarterback where he showed flashes of the player he can become with two quarterback draw runs where he completely split the defense through the middle.
But Hill can also throw the ball with the best of them as he showed a powerful arm, but often put it in harms way of the opponent. However, it was enough to impress Hopewell’s leading-man.
“He’s a really talented kid,” Irby said of Hill. “He’s a young man who’s just coming up here and is playing against guys who are a little bit bigger than him and he’s just getting his feet wet.”
And while Hill showed some promise, so did Brandon Scott, the likely starter heading into the season. While Scott did throw an interception and fumbled the ball after tripping over his own blocker, he brings experience to the table and a different kind of ability that will go into the decision-making process.
“We’re going to evaluate it all together and see which gives us our best chance to be successful and we’ll go with that,” Irby said of the looming quarterback decision.
And while the offense produced very little in terms of production, it meant the defense had to be on the field for extended amounts of time. But while they did surrender 20 points, they also impressed with their short memories.
On numerous occasions, Hopewell’s defense was gashed for big-gains on the ground, but they would then respond with a big-play themselves such as picking up key sacks and an interception.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
“Last year we were really resilient, we had short memories,” Irby said. “Everytime we gave up a big play, we ended up making one. I just think we need to execute a little better on offense. We have to find the guys who are going to make us better.”
But with the season inching ever closer — just one week until their opener — Irby and his staff will have to dig deep to figure out a winning game-plan while also teaching an inexperienced team how to be successful — a balance that holds the key to the season.