Taylor's Devils Run Past Wave
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Oct 21, 2013, 08:38
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — After defeating Colonial Heights last week in a rout, the Blue Devils entered Friday’s game with a high level of confidence, expecting to do the same against an undermanned Petersburg squad.
Except the Crimson Wave did not receive the message. Instead, they flipped the script on a surprised Hopewell team and took the attack right to them at the opening kick-off. Petersburg marched 65 yards on their first possession before Levi Jones fired a pass to Gemonta Jackson for a six-yard touchdown in just 3:59 seconds of elapsed time.
It was a message sent by a Crimson Wave squad ready to take on the challenge of picking up a critical road win at Merner Field as their defense immediately forced Hopewell’s offense into a three-and-out. A few plays later it was Jones tossing another touchdown pass, giving Petersburg a 14-0 lead.
After 26-yard rush from Gemonta Jackson up the teeth of the Hopewell defense, the Blue Devils sideline was silent, but the scoreboard spoke a thousand words for them: 34-13 with 3:35 remaining in the half.
Yet, as Tabyus Taylor lined up his team in the huddle, there was a quiet confidence being exhibited. Hopewell had been in this position before and had come out on top.
“We were in the same thing against Hanover, they were up on us,” Taylor said after a stirring 48-40 victory for Hopewell. “We knew coming into the game before halftime, we just had to finish. We just had to play harder and it would happen.”
And by achieving an unlikely victory after trailing by 21 points, Hopewell has the look of a team becoming hot at the right time.
While the Crimson Wave (2-5) surely took the Blue Devils (3-4) by surprise with their heart and desire — a true mark of a great team with a chance to make some noise in the playoffs — Hopewell answered Petersburg in every facet.
It’s a performance a team can build off of and lean on heading into the final three games of the season, all of which vital to playoff hopes and seeding.
“I give a lot of credit to coach (Joshua) Wallace and that Petersburg football team,” Hopewell coach Ricky Irby said after the game. “They came ready to play, they’re a really good football team. We beat a really good football team here tonight.”
But a comeback victory over one of the most athletic teams Hopewell has faced all season would not have been possible without the dramatic turnaround by a beleaguered defense.
The Blue Devils defense were manhandled in the first half, surrendering scoring drives of 65, 54, 63, 95 and 26 yards. Included among the scoring drives were two 70 plus yard scoring plays with all five of them covering at least 25 yards on the ground or in the air.
Once in the open field, the Blue Devils seemed to be clueless on what angles to take to stop the blazing speed of the Crimson Wave.
Yet, Hopewell figured it out.
After surrendering 34 points in the game’s first 20:25, they halted Petersburg to just six over the last 27:35, a game-saving turnaround.
“We settled down a little bit and didn’t give them such good field position in the second half,” Irby said of his defense. “We made great adjustments with coach Henderson and the defense.”
Ronnie Monroe played a key role on the defense in the waning minutes of the first half and into the second half. He helped shutdown whatever receiver he was on an island with, picking up a key interception — his third in two games — which led to an important scoring drive.
But while there were stars abound, once again it was Taylor who truly shined on the night, willing his team to a victory it seemed Hopewell had no business of having.
Trailing 14-0, it was Taylor running the ball three times on a four-play scoring drive spanning 74 yards before rushing one in himself from 15 yards away. Then, immediately following a lengthy scoring drive from Petersburg, it was Taylor who answered back with a 70-yard rushing touchdown to cut the lead in half.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Back and forth Taylor went with Petersburg, answering each and every score with one of his own until the Blue Devils’ defense turned into a brick wall, giving Taylor the chance win the game with his legs.
His total game stats is one which will discussed for a long time.
Taylor finished with 403 yards rushing on just 38 carries — that’s 10.6 yard per carry — for five touchdowns. But Taylor also completed 4-of-10 passes for 90 yards with a touchdown and an interception. And that’s before mentioning a key forced fumble with Petersburg threatening to take a late lead late in the fourth quarter.
Over his last two games, Taylor has run for 505 yards on 40 carries and has accumulated 12 total touchdowns when combining passing, rushing and receiving totals.
“No.5, for us, was something special tonight,” Irby said of his quarterback. “He does a lot of things well for us. I don’t think he came out of the game tonight. We needed him, kept him out there for kick-offs ... I’m really proud of our kids and the heart and resiliency we showed.”
Heart and resiliency mean a lot to confidence, but having a player with Taylor’s ability to take over a game means even more, setting Hopewell up for a late-season run which could mimic last season’s title game run.