Hopewell Picks Up A Crucial Win
By Ryan Lazo
Sep 23, 2013, 08:05
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — All it took was two Hanover drives, spanning just 5:14 of game action, for the Blue Devils to start to see a nightmare unfolding.
The quick 13-0 deficit, helped out by a blocked point-after-attempt by the special teams, brought back the memories of last year’s Central Region 5 Title Game at Merner Field — a 35-7 rout by the Hawks at Merner Field.
But this Hopewell squad, looking at a disastrous 0-3 start to the season, would not let it happen.
Their defense stiffened, shutting down Hanover for the rest of the half. They increased pressure off the edges. They made sure tackles in the open field.
And most importantly, they ended the Hawks’ mental advantage, allowing Hopewell to storm out in the second half to capture a stirring 21-19 victory.
“We talked about being resilient and I thought our guys showed a lot of resiliency,” Hopewell head coach Ricky Irby said after his team’s first win. “We got down early...our kids just battled hard. I’m really proud of the effort they gave.”
And Irby has reason to be proud.
During the first half of play, his team seemed to be in a fog. Nothing seemed to be fluid. They weren’t as much as playing but reacting, leaving them vulnerable on both offense and defense.
In fact, Hopewell’s offense could not manage more than a three-and-out on three consecutive possessions in the first half, sleepwalking through a game they both had to and wanted to win.
While this was a week 3 meeting between two teams, it was more than that to the Blue Devils players who lost to this very Hanover squad last year. Perhaps no one was more outwardly excited than senior Tabyus Taylor who pumped his fists and pointed to the sky as the final whistle blew.
“We owed them one since last year,” Taylor said of facing Hanover. “We did this for all the former Hopewell players who came back from college to see us play.”
And what they saw was two completely different teams take the field from the first and second halves of action.
While the Blue Devils looked as if they would struggle to score against a Pee-Wee team in a lackluster first 24 minutes, they looked as if they could have run through a brick wall in the second.
The offensive line which could not generate a push or create holes suddenly received a jolt of energy, opening up holes for both Taylor and running back Gabe Dupree to dash through. It was in the trenches where the tone was set for the rest of the game, starting with the first drive of the half.
Lining up in the backfield, Dupree’s hands were visibly itching to get a hold of the ball and when it was snapped, he took it off tackle and ran for a gain of nine yards. Then facing a third-and-long after a sack, Taylor took off from behind the line of scrimmage, pressed the circle button on his Playstation 3 controller, and span away from a would-be tackler for the first down and a 21-yard gain.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Then, Taylor found his cousin, junior Darrell Taylor for screen pass and run for another 30 yards. It would not be the last time the two cousins, playing together since they were young boys, found a solid connection in the second half.
But it would be Taylor, following behind his suddenly menacing offensive line who finished off a dominating drive with a touchdown run at the 7:52 mark of the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 13-7.
“When you can run the football on a team, it really takes their spirit away,” Irby said. “Not only that, it drains the clock for you ...Those guys up front, they did the job tonight. Coach Moore gets on those guys a lot and demands a lot of them.”
And that demanding turned into results.
Suddenly, like Irby said, Hanover’s defense dropped their heads and shoulders after being bullied down the field. They no longer had the mental edge given to them after dominating the Blue Devils’ offense in the first half and it showed.
Just 5:25 of game action elapsed after Taylor’s first rushing touchdown of the night and his second, giving Hopewell a 14-13 lead, one they would not relinquish. Irby could not help but heap praise on his senior quarterback who one week ago struggled in a decisive second half, only to completely take a control of the game this week in another decisive second half.
All week in practice Taylor preached about giving it his all in order to get the win and he backed it up.
“When we needed something, No. 5 gave it to us tonight,” Irby said of Taylor's 125 yard rushing day on 29 carries. “He had that extra push and determination and willpower to get it done.”
But with eight minutes remaining, it was not No. 5, but No. 22 who essentially clinched the victory, reading a screen from a mile away, picking off the pass and running it in for a 67-yard score.
“I read it,” Darrell Taylor said of his game-clinching play. “I knew they were going to run the same thing, so I waited, ran up to catch it and take it to the house.”
After overcoming a 13-point deficit, the Blue Devils aim to keep running with this newfound momentum and with No. 5 behind center, they’ll always have a chance.