Blue Devils' Offensive Line Leads The Way
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Sep 27, 2013, 08:00
RYAN LAZO/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — The most important players on the football field never get any of the attention. Instead, they sit back and watch as the quarterback, running back and receivers bask in all the glory of a dominating win.
But in truth, those skill position players would not be able to put up the numbers they do without those big men who battle in the trenches on each and every snap. It’s the offensive line which creates the holes for the running backs to crash through.
And it’s the offensive line which holds off the rushers to give their own quarterback a chance to find an open receiver. Hopewell senior Tyler Smith knows the situation around being a lineman. He knows the accolades don’t come as often, but as long as he and his teammates do their job, that’s all that matters.
“We may not get our pictures in the paper and might not be talked about,” Smith said before practice. “But without us, the team sort of falls apart. We take pride in that.”
In fact, it can be argued that it’s the offensive line that has been the strength of the Blue Devils this season. The irony is the line was a question mark entering the season, even worrying head coach Ricky Irby.
Yet, after graduating all five starters from the line last season and having just three holdovers who played varsity football last season, they have not skipped a beat. Irby, never one to shy away from heaping praise on his players and assistants, has spoken glowingly of offensive line coach Brian Moore all season.
“I may be biased but I think we have the best offensive line coach in the state,” Irby said after defeating Hanover last week. “He works those guys hard and we’re lucky to have him.”
While Irby is biased, his claim has substance to it.
Running back Gabe Dupree has totaled 36 carries this season, compiling 172 yards in the process. Quick math shows Dupree is averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
But that’s not even tops on the team.
Quarterback Tabyus Taylor has utilized read-option designed plays and athletic scrambles to compile 258 yards on just 46 carries. That’s 5.7 yards per rush attempt.
It’s these numbers, even after everyone they lost, which makes Moore proud of what his players have accomplished this season already.
“I’m real pleased with our offensive line,” Moore said. “It’s taken us a few games to get started, but I was real happy with our effort in the second half last week against Hanover. Our crew showed a lot of gumption to come out, put their foot in the ground and get it done.”
And perhaps that second half showed exactly what this line is capable of the rest of the way.
What occurred last week was nothing short of astonishing. For a full 24 minutes, Hopewell’s offensive line would not have been able to push over a bag of chips, but for the final 24, they became beasts.
The offensive line played with energy and passion, opening up holes with ease, allowing the Blue Devils to march down the field for their first score of the game before following it up with another.
Moore said he didn’t do anything special except speak to the situation.
“We kind of got in their head at halftime and I told the seniors that this is their time to step up and start being the heart and the drive of this football team,” he explained. “All of our seniors came out and played a great second half, but we have a lot of skill position players in the backfield which make us look good.”
While having skillful players in the backfield helps, having good players on the line dominates. If Hopewell’s blue collar men can continue their upward trend, more trench domination and wins will follow.