Devils 'D' Aims For Repeat
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Oct 23, 2013, 08:04
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — After two consecutive home games — both victories in which the Blue Devils scored at least 48 points — Hopewell’s football team faces a road test against unbeaten Dinwiddie High School on Friday.
The Generals are not undefeated through seven weeks of the football season by being lucky. They are one of the top teams in the state, ranking No. 19 in the VHSL according to VHSL-Reference.com. Dinwiddie has scored at least 44 points in every game this season while boasting an average margin of victory of 43 points.
Dinwiddie’s high-octane offense dominates teams by running the ball and owning the trenches, a spot Tyler Smith said will determine who wins and loses Friday’s game.
“They are big and nasty and we’re big and nasty,” Smith said of his team. “I think it’s going to be a good game and if we can dominate up front, the game is going to be ours.”
Yet, for the Devils to control the trenches, they will need to be ready for the up-tempo style run by Dinwiddie coach Billy Mills.
The Generals fast-paced assault is known to never huddle — not allowing the opposition to change personnel — and strike quickly. In their first game of the season against Monacan, Dinwiddie’s first three drives resulted in touchdowns.
But it’s the efficiency they showed during the drives which puts a scare into their opposition: 17 plays to go 171 yards in just 4:47 of elapsed game time.
“We’re trying to emulate it in practice as much as we can,” Hopewell’s defensive coordinator Bobby Henderson said. “It’s tough to emulate ... We’re going to try to rotate as many guys as we can. They do have a high-powered offense and it does make me lose sleep at night.”
While the pace of the game may be a focal point, Hopewell won’t be unprepared for the challenge of facing Sadarius Williams, Rashaard Goodwyn and Robert Kearney. In fact, Hopewell may be the most prepared team to face the Generals in that regard.
Tabyus Taylor is the type of player who can take over a game as he proved in his school-record 403-yard rushing game against Petersburg over the weekend. Not only will Hopewell need another effort like that to defeat the Generals, he helps his own team by having them practice against him.
“Tabyus has been a great player and he represents everything Sadarius can do for them,” Henderson said. “He’s a hard-nosed runner and he’s been playing the running back to give us the emulation of him.”
And while Taylor helps prepare the team for Dinwiddie’s stable of running backs which would make even Pete Carroll blush, the Petersburg game may have been the most important form of practice Hopewell has received.
The Crimson Wave boasted numerous athletic skill-position players who were capable of making game-changing plays at any moment. In fact, Petersburg’s offensive players had their way with Hopewell’s defense in the first half of action.
But over the final 27:35, the Blue Devils’ defense surrendered just six points compared to the 34 points surrendered in the first 21:25. The experience of facing Petersburg’s athletes and then making the proper adjustments to stop them is an aspect which will prove to be beneficial to Hopewell when they face the Generals.
“Everyone was playing as an individual in the first half,” Taylor said of his team’s effort against the Crimson Wave. “But going into the second half, we just started reading our gaps and everything got better.”
It took a team-wide effort to contain the speed of Petersburg and it will take an even greater effort to stop Dinwiddie, especially when considering the recent past between the two teams. It was Hopewell who knocked the Generals out of last year’s playoffs.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Just like earlier this season when the Blue Devils found the extra gear to defeat Hanover to avenge their playoff loss, it’s certain Dinwiddie will want to do the same to Hopewell.
Although no matter what motivation Dinwiddie is prepared to play with, Smith said it does not alter what the Blue Devils have to do in order to be successful.
“From the start it has to be defense,” Smith said. “It has to be the main goal to stop them and their running game.”
It’s a lesson this squad learned last year during their two meetings — once in the regular season in a 28-21 loss and then the playoff victory.
Henderson said the Blue Devils learned they could not merely enter the game against Dinwiddie with just the mentality to stay alive and keep it close. They realized they had to give it everything they had and take calculated risks in order to come out on top.
“Last year, I kind of went in there with the attitude of trying to survive instead of attacking and we changed that for the second game,” Henderson said of what his team learned last season. “We said if we are going to lose, we are going to lose. We’re going to go down doing what we do best. That’s the same attitude we’re going to go in there with this week as well.”
And it’s that attitude which helped Hopewell to a 47-28 win over Dinwiddie in last year’s playoffs. However, whether this group of Hopewell players can replicate the effort remains to be seen.
But one thing is for certain — the game will show whether Hopewell’s recent play is a result of the schedule or a gradual improvement having them set to make noise in the playoffs.