Hopewell Could Revisit Recent History
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Oct 11, 2013, 07:57
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — On the surface, a 1-4 start to a season would seem to be demoralizing and doom any chance of success for the rest of the year. Yet, the Blue Devils are not in panic mode having been in this situation before.
Just last season, Hopewell sat at a middling 2-2 record through four games yet finished on a 6-2 streak, allowing them to not only qualify for the playoffs but reach the Central Region 5 title game.
While this year’s squad is different than last year’s, there are similarities between the two, giving them confidence they can turn it around.
“We don’t lose confidence, we feel like we are a really good football team,” head coach Ricky Irby said. “We just haven’t executed well this season, but we’ll get it together.”
The Blue Devils can look to a favorable schedule as reason to believe a turnaround is near. Their next two games are against Colonial Heights and Petersburg, two programs which have compiled just an 10-40 combined record over the previous two plus seasons.
Take it a step further and Hopewell is a combined 20-8 against the Colonials and Crimson Wave since 1999, making the schedule less daunting in the second half of the season.
But Hopewell’s players also know they have played well in spurts this season, having yet to play a complete game. There are too many plays being left out on the field, but Tabyus Taylor says it can be corrected and it will make them more dangerous.
“I feel once we get our receivers open more and I’m able to hit them, we’ll be good,” Taylor said.
And that’s what has plagued this team all season long — an inability to be a consistent threat in the passing game.
Taylor’s debut game against Powhatan featured a 60-yard touchdown pass to Jarvezz Brown, but it has not been the norm. The passing attack has yet to spread open the field nor create touchdowns.
The lack of production has allowed the Blue Devils’ opponents to stack the box, specifically keying on the running game. It’s what makes Hopewell’s running attack all the more impressive.
Even when teams are expecting the run, they can’t stop it and that’s a credit to an offensive line which entered the season as a question mark. Opening holes at will has allowed both Taylor and running back Gabe Dupree to carry the offensive load for Hopewell all season long.
“It’s been tremendous,” Irby said. “Both of those guys are good athletes and our line has done a good job of opening up holes, but I’d like to be see us be able to finish better on our blocks. We are getting to the spot, but not finishing it. We want those guys to play with an edge.”
While Irby was referring to his offensive line, he might as well be discussing his whole team. His squad is in a precarious enough position where they need to finish the regular season on a streak equal to the one from last season.
And this team has proven they are capable of playing to the level needed to accomplish a season-changing win-streak.
The Blue Devils may only have one win this season, but no one has been able to question their heart or determination. Numerous times this year, Irby’s squad could have wilted but instead they battled.
Even after surrendering a 13-point lead against Powhatan, Hopewell’s players fought back and had two chances to win the game in the closing minutes.
Then, against Thomas Dale, the Blue Devils held a lead lead in the third
quarter before tiring and succumbing to the running of Eric Finney.
“We aren’t into moral victories,” Irby said after his team’s loss to Meadowbrook last week. “We go out there, line up and expect to win every game and we didn’t do that.”
Yet even Irby can acknowledge the talent on his roster.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Taylor has enamored both opposing coaches and his own teammates this season with his game-breaking ability. The senior has the ability to throw the ball a mile down the field or take off running, shrugging off defenders at will.
Most importantly, when the Blue Devils need a play, he makes one, showing the true character of a talented player.
“Tabyus is one of the best players we have played against in a long time,” Meadowbrook head coach Troy Taylor said after his team’s win over Hopewell.
Added Powhatan head coach James Woodson:
“We watched No. 5 when he made that run down there, my goodness, he’s good. You were in a little bit of shock and feel like you couldn’t do anything about it.”
And that’s before mentioning the play of Dupree, Darrell Taylor and Tyler Smith among others.
If Irby can devise a passing game to take some of the focus away from Hopewell’s dangerous rushing attack, winning four of their last five games is not out of the realm of possibilities, leading them to a coveted playoff spot where anything can happen.