Blue Devils Eye Hanover
By Ryan Lazo
Sep 18, 2013, 08:06
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — The Blue Devils marched into the Central Region Division 5 Championship game in a dream season last year. It was a cinderella run for a squad predicted to win just three games, as they seemed to be following the newest Hollywood blockbuster.
But the movie bombed at the box office with many leaving before the credits rolled.
Hopewell ran into a brick wall in a talented Hanover squad in the championship game, being out-played in all areas. The Hawks’ defense essentially rendered the Blue Devils’ rushing attack useless as they recorded negative 26 yards on 23 carries.
Those same Hawks bludgeoned Hopewell on offense as well, tallying 35 unanswered points behind 289 yards of total offense from their senior quarterback alone. And even though 20 seniors have since graduated for the Blue Devils, for the few remaining players the pain lingers.
And the pain is being brought to the forefront this week as Hopewell gets set to host Hanover once again in what can essentially be called a must-win game. The Blue Devils are 0-2 and an 0-3 start to the season brings them closer to a number no team wants to be a part of.
When a team loses their first four games, they miss the playoffs 95 percent of the time, according to the VHSL-Reference website. It’s a number Tabyus Taylor says his team is looking to avoid in addition to exacting some revenge.
“We owe them a lot,” Taylor said remembering last year’s loss. “We have to get that win back. If we limit our turnovers and wrap up our tackles, we can get it done.”
And he’s right.
Hopewell played almost perfectly through three complete quarters during last week’s game against Powhatan. It’s the type of effort which if played consistently, could defeat almost any team in the VHSL.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the team lost focus in the decisive fourth quarter, wilting under the pressure. It’s something that has been a focus during team meeting this week.
Head coach Ricky Irby explained to his team that if they had made one or two more plays, they would be 1-1 and not winless. He also stressed ball-security which helped deliver the death-blow to their chances Friday night.
“We just talked about eliminating turnovers and being smart with the football,” Irby said of his meetings. “We went back and looked at film and saw some missed assignments we had. That’s going to happen, but we have to move on and correct them and try to learn from them.”
And if the improvement from the scrimmage game through week 2 of the VHSL season is any indication, this team is ready to take the next stop. In the short three-week span, Hopewell’s defense has proven to have an ability to be stout after being shredded by Clover Hill.
After being shutout by Grafton in their season-opener, the offense opened up week 2 play with 17 unanswered points in grand fashion, almost to defy their skeptics.
“Our kids are resilient,” Irby said of his team’s mindset. “They’ll bounce back and I’m looking forward to a good showing on Friday night.”
Part of the reason for Irby’s optimism?
It’s their familiarity with Hanover after last year’s loss. The Hawks have perenially run the same type of offense each year, with mild changes.
However, that also means there has been no drop-off in talent from last year’s title squad, even after losing their star quarterback to graduation.
It’s for this reason, Hopewell players believe they are ready for this rematch.
And perhaps no bigger factor is to repay the favor and protect their home-field.
“Revenge is a part of it, but we also are a team needing a win,” Taylor explained.
A team desperate for both a win and revenge is a dangerous and deadly combination. If used correctly, the Blue Devils will be right back in the thick of the action in the VHSL, surprising skeptics once again.