Hopewell Falls To Thomas Dale
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Sep 30, 2013, 08:10
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
CHESTER — Hopewell stood toe-to-toe with the class 6A Thomas Dale Knights. Instead of wilting, they answered every test. In fact, it was the Blue Devils who tested the psyche of a Knights squad that has been criticized for quitting in previous games.
With a 38-yard strike from Tabyus Taylor to his cousin Darrell Taylor, Hopewell had taken a 14-7 lead with just 1:21 remaining in the first half. But the Knights answered, utilizing just 59 seconds of the allotted time to score a touchdown for themselves.
Yet, the Blue Devils special teams blocked their second point-after-attempt of the season, keeping the lead heading into the second half. And after a touchdown run from Taylor, it seemed Hopewell were on their way to their second win of the season, but it wasn’t to be.
“I’m very proud of our effort,” Blue Devils head coach Ricky Irby said after his team fell 32-23 to the Knights. “We made a few mistakes. Special teams, I think hurt ourselves a bit. But I can’t fault our kids — our effort was outstanding.”
Hopewell (1-3) controlled the game in the first half with their play in the trenches. In a scoreless first quarter, both teams tried to pound the ball on the ground with no holes to be found. But soon creases opened up for the Blue Devils.
By the start of the second quarter, Hopewell running back Gabe Dupree took a run off-tackle and sprinted his way toward the end zone, diving his way across to break the physical deadlock.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
And when the Knights (2-2) answered with a score of their own, Hopewell did not shudder. They’ve been in tight games all season and leaned on those lessons against Thomas Dale.
With the play-clock ticking down toward halftime, the crowd cheering for a defensive stop on a 4th and 13 play, Taylor lined up his team and called for the ball.
Taylor’s legs and scrambling ability had given the Knights’ defense fits all game long, making them key on him as he received the ball from the shotgun. Taylor quickly scrambled to his left, faking out everyone in the stadium who thought he would take off before throwing a bomb to complete the family connection as No. 22 waltzed into the end zone.
“Hopewell is a well-coached team with a group of kids who are probably as hard-nosed as anyone you will face,” Knights head coach Kevin Tucker said after the game. “They never quit ... they got tired and that’s the sign of a good Hopewell football team.”
This Blue Devils team certainly has the talent and the desire to turn this season around. Losing to a Knights’ squad with more depth than the Blue Devils can ever dream of and a team that is battle-tested who’s three previous opponents were a combined 63-11 over the past two years, is nothing to shake one’s head at.
Hopewell has faced tough teams themselves, and while it doesn’t get much easier next week when they face a Meadowbrook team that is better than their 2-2 record, Irby can look at his roster and see they have the talent to win a crucial road game.
“I’ll tell you what, that team is going to be really tough to deal with come playoff time,” Tucker said of Hopewell.
The reasons they will be are limitless, but it can start on the offensive line.
Irby always credits the job his offensive line coach Brian Moore does with his players, but even he was amazed with how they handled the Knights’ front four.
“I’m really proud of our offensive line, they are a way bigger team than us,” Irby said of Thomas Dale. “Their smallest guy is bigger than our biggest guy. They have some big kids on that defensive front, some good athletes and our line blocked well. Our running game was pretty good.”
In fact, it was Taylor who lead he way for the Blue Devils with 30 carries for 163 yards with a touchdown on the ground on the night. He was followed by Dupree who totaled 20 carries for a hard-fought 60 yards and one touchdown.
But the line did not just run block, but they were able to keep Taylor upright on his 13 passing attempts, four of which he completed for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Even the defense did their part, holding Thomas Dale’s leading rusher Eric Finney to 100 yards rushing on 18 carries, but his four touchdowns made all the difference. As the game went on, Finney became better and it doomed the Blue Devils.
Yet, the positives are there. The defense recorded a safety. The rushing offense were able to pound away and the passing game had some timely throws.
“That’s what we have to do,” Irby said. “We have to build on the positives and work on the negatives and try to make those better. We’ll do that starting Monday for sure.”
Though the Blue Devils have but one win on the season, the squad has improved themselves with every game. Testing themselves against tough opponents while holding their own will only serve them well as the 10-game season continues, ending with a chance for a lengthy playoff run.