Blue Devils 'D' Leads The Way
By Ryan Lazo
Sep 11, 2013, 08:38
BLAKE CAPALDO/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
HOPEWELL — Imagine having a game-plan in place for a season-opening road game which also happens to your quarterback’s first varsity start. Then, imagine said quarterback taking a heavy hit in the first quarter and being knocked out of action the rest of the night.
The scenario above is exactly what happened to the Blue Devils last Friday night as they opened the season against Grafton.
Head coach Ricky Irby had a set game-plan he was confident in, only seeing it being torn apart by an injury only minutes into game. Out went senior quarterback Brandon Scott and thrown into the heated-cauldron was freshman Cameron Hill.
What followed was a 13-0 loss season-opening loss, one that could have
been worse if it wasn’t for an intense, physical effort by the defense.
“We turned it over eight times. I think that pretty much sums it up,” Irby said during practice Tuesday afternoon. “It’s hard to beat anybody when you turn it over that much. We’ve stressed ball-security this week, put extra emphasis on it and try to get better in that area.”
Ball-security and the increase in turnovers is not something which was entirely unexpected after throwing Hill into the opener. Hill is a talented-but-young player who did not even play one junior varsity game before taking the snaps.
Take one look at the freshmen and it’s easy to envision what he will be in the future — he has a strong arm and the ability to move the pocket with his legs as well as run for first-downs.
However, turnovers and penalties stymied any chance Hopewell had of
stealing a road victory.
“We didn’t help the defense out on offense,” Irby said. “When I went back and looked at, we would have some drives, but then we would shoot ourselves in the foot with either penalties or a turnover and that hurt us.”
But while the offense struggled to get any consistency, Irby could see the forming of a solid defense — one who can dominate the game right in the trenches.
The defensive line controlled the point of attack for much of the game led by second-team all-Central Region defensive end, Tyler Smith. Over and over again, the Blue Devils created pressure in the backfield, pressuring the Clippers’ quarterback and would-be rushers.
It’s an effort that did not go unnoticed by the head coach.
“I thought our defensive line was outstanding,” Irby said of the men in the trenches. “The defense, as a whole, man, we did awesome. Those guys just continued to make play after play after play.”
And perhaps the most important piece is a 5-foot-7 defensive back who has the experience to continue to lead the young and promising Hopewell defense.
Senior Jarvezz Brown is no physical specimen, but the second-team all-district defensive back has great football acumen. He knows where to be at the right time and has steadily improved since switching over from offense to defense.
And Brown has certainly did that in the opening-game, calling out plays and helping position his younger teammates.
BLAKE CAPALDO/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
“I guess with me being a senior, a leader, I need to step up,” Brown said. “I need to make sure I stay on the field and do what I can to succeed.”
While the defense should continue to experience success, the offense may receive the jolt it needs as Tabyus Taylor returns to action on Friday night.
The second-team all-VHSL receiver brings a different dynamic to the offense with his ability to play numerous positions and be a playmaker in all. It’s what makes Taylor anxious for the opening whistle in just one day’s time.
“I’m ready,” Taylor quickly responded. “I know it will be a lot different. They were missing me back there making plays like I usually do. I’m ready to help us win.”
It would be hard for any offense to make up for the loss of a wide receiver of his caliber, yet alone a team forced to play a freshman quarterback after the starter went down with an injury.
But with him back in the fold, the offense should have more firepower and be able to run the uptempo style Irby demands, giving the Hopewell offense the jolt it needs after being shutout just one week ago.
“I tell my team all the time, ‘the best teams have their biggest improvements from week one to week two,’” Irby said. “And I really believe that’s true with our team. I think we’re going to have a really good game Friday night.”
After a strong defensive effort from a team which had just three players who have played under the glare of those varsity lights, plus the return of Taylor to a struggling offense – Irby’s bunch is looking more formidable by the day.