Devils' Offense Struggles In Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Oct 28, 2013, 07:40
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
DINWIDDIE — This game was supposed to be Hopewell’s football team’s message to the rest of the conference. It was supposed to be a statement that this Blue Devils squad was capable of the same late-season run last year’s team put together.
Instead, it served as a reminder there is still work to be done on the practice field.
The Blue Devils headed into the contest with a two-game winning streak, averaging 52 points per game during the span. They also had defeated Dinwiddie in last year’s playoffs, giving them even more reason to be optimistic about their chances.
Yet, just 14 seconds into the game, the confidence faded and the sideline grew silent.
Dinwiddie found the end zone on a 88-yard kick-off return from Rashad Stewart, putting Hopewell in the early hole. The early deficit, a death sentence against the high-powered Generals’ offense, was too much to overcome for a Hopewell team which struggled to prolong scoring drives.
“We can’t give up big plays like that. We just can’t,” Blue Devils head coach Ricky Irby said after his team’s 43-7 loss. “We put some new guys on the kick-off team and the same thing happened again. We need to find 11 guys to put on our special teams that want to be there and can make the plays. The sad thing is, in week eight, we shouldn’t have to be doing that.”
But that is the predicament this Blue Devils (3-5) squad is in heading into their final two games of the season, both of which seemingly must-wins.
Hopewell allowed the Generals (8-0) to score on their first three possessions of the game, the kick-off return, and a18 and 10-yard runs by Sadrius Williams, spanning 4:27 of elapsed game-time. It was the type of offensive execution the Blue Devils defense expected and prepared for, yet their own execution was lacking.
After falling behind 21-0, there still remained some quiet optimism on the sidelines. After all, this Hopewell squad overcame a 21-point deficit last week before taking control of the game in the second half.
And when Gabe Dupree rushed in an eight-yard touchdown, capping off a nine-play, 55-yard drive, Hopewell was right back into it. That is until the defense was burned 13 seconds later on a fake halfback toss as Williams ran to his right, stopped at the edge and fired a pass deep over the middle for a 54-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Quan Poarch.
It signaled the backbreaker for a Hopewell team brimming with excitement leading up to the game, turning them into shadows of their former selves.
“It’s been on us all year, we just continue to allow big plays,” Irby said. “Special teams and even on defense. Teams don’t really drive the ball down the field against us; it’s that one big play we give up.”
Irby’s point is warranted.
Hopewell’s defense made the Generals work on each of their scoring plays.
Dinwiddie entered the contest having averaged 53 points per contest with the average margin of victory being by 43 points.
While Diniwiddie racked up 401 yards of total offense — Hopewell had just 232 on the night while running 66 plays to the Generals’ 47 — most of the yards came on broken assignments and coverages.
Dinwiddie’s special teams busted through the Blue Devils’ coverages for two touchdowns, one the opening kick-off and the other being a 65-yard punt return by Poarch.
“It’s frustrating,” Irby said of the defensive breakdowns. “It’s frustrating as a coach when you got guys in the right position, but you just don’t make plays. Give Dinwiddie credit, they have some good players who made some plays tonight.”
Yet, for all of the mistakes, Hopewell’s defense made some crucial plays as well led by two interceptions, one of which by Ronnie Monroe who is quickly becoming a ball-hawk in the secondary.
Monroe’s interception was his fourth in three games, but he also had two critical break-ups while the Generals were in the red zone early in the third quarter.
“He’s becoming one of our better players defensively,” Irby said of the sophomore. “He’s amazing. Definitely a bright spot.”
Added Generals head coach Billy Mills:
“Bobby (Henderson) does a great job,” he said of Hopewell’s defensive
coordinator. “He puts a lot of pressure on you at the line of scrimmage and makes you adjust.”
But now it’s Hopewell’s turn to adjust.
After their offense looked close to unstoppable the past two weeks, they struggled to prolong drives against Dinwiddie. On fourth-down conversion attempts, the Blue Devils managed to go just 2-of-7, effectively handing the game to the Generals.
The turning point came right before halftime when Hopewell stared down a fourth and inches decision near the red zone. Irby gambled with a play-call with a run up the middle and a questionable spot of the ball ended with a turnover. The Blue Devils also failed to convert just inches away from the end zone, falling inches short on both sides of the ball.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
But it was the Generals’ defense of Tabyus Taylor, limiting him to just 88 yards on 25 rushes — the longest of which eight yards — which doomed Hopewell.
“That’s big,” Mills said. “He’s a heck of a player and people have had a lot of trouble with him all year. We felt if we could take him out of their game-plan, try to make the rest of them beat us, we’d be in front.”
After eight games, it’s no secret the book on defeating Hopewell is stopping Taylor in the backfield. His running ability opens up the read-option for Dupree and Anthony Crawford while also setting up the defense for play-action passes.
If Hopewell can’t find a way to adjust with a defense keying on the backfield, the next two games could end in the same disappointment the team felt in Dinwiddie.