Hopewell, Taylor Rush Past Warriors
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Nov 5, 2013, 10:41
HOPEWELL — As Matoaca's passing game continually torched the Blue Devils' secondary, Tabyus Taylor and his teammates never lost faith. He remained calm and focused, a desire to win splashed across his intense glare.
Taylor would not let the Warriors ruin Hopewell's Senior Day. His Senior Day.
And it was Taylor who proved to be the best player on the field against Matoaca in a game with heavy playoff implications. It was Taylor outperforming Matoaca's four-star wide receiver based on recruiting services.
And it was behind his performance, which has this Hopewell team developing a confidence and belief in itself after capturing a thrilling 52-47 victory at Merner Field, clinching a playoff spot in the 3A Region.
"Matoaca is a very good football team. They have great players, well-coached and they ran the ball really hard tonight," Hopewell coach Ricky Irby said after the game. "I'm just really proud of my guys for the resiliency we showed and when we went into the locker room at halftime, we said we've been here before."
Hopewell's (4-5) football team has been faced with tough circumstances this season. They learned how difficult it is to maintain a lead when Powhatan came back from a 17-point deficit to capture a victory.
The next week they overcame a 13-point deficit to Hanover, barely edging out the Hawks in a 21-19 victory. But there was also the 21-point comeback victory over Petersburg just two weeks ago, all adding up to a team filled with a confidence that they will find a way to win.
Yet, in all four of the Devils' victories, there has been one common dominator.
The play of No. 5.
In Hopewell's four wins, Taylor is averaging 223 yards per game to go along with 3.75 touchdowns per game. In addition, his passing is also vital to the Blue Devils' victories, going 24-of-36 for 388 yards through the air for four touchdowns and two interceptions.
But perhaps of all the performances he's had in the wins — the 403-yard effort against Petersburg immediately comes to mind — Taylor topped it with his Senior Day performance.
With Matoaca (4-5) scoring at will with no end in sight, the senior took it upon himself to will his team to victory, rushing for 271 yards on 29 carries for a total of seven touchdowns.
That's not a typo.
Taylor rushed for seven touchdowns and additionally completed 12-of-15 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown to complete his great statistical night.
"It just amazes me every time I see him play," Irby said of Taylor. "It's just unbelievable. Hopefully, some schools will really start looking at him because he's a talented football player. He can play for just about anybody."
While Taylor's ability to gain critical yards after the catch and breakaway down the field once reaching the second-level is key to his success, the play of the offensive line was the difference against Matoaca.
The Warriors' quick-strike attack burned the Blue Devils' secondary with ease, utilizing touchdown receptions of 21, 20, 20, 24 yards at a time. With much of the focus on stopping 6-foot-4 wideout Trevion Armstrong, Khalil Coleman hauled in eight catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Hopewell offense — with the exception of the 45-yard laser touchdown pass to Jar'vezz Brown — needed to churn out the tough yards, an aspect senior lineman Aaron Young said is key to the team's success.
"A great quarterback starts with a great offensive line," Young said. "We made our blocks, got to the point of attack and it was great from there.
"I'm so proud of my offensive line and Gabe (Dupree)," he said. "I thought this was the hardest he ran all year and he was determined with each carry. I'm impressed with their performance; we only punted once all game."
But while Dupree helped with his clutch running ability, none more important than the third-down run of 26 yards, it was his blocking ability ahead of the read-option which allowed Taylor to get to the second-level.
"Just like against Petersburg, he helped seal off that edge," Irby said of his running back. "And if Tabyus gets a crease, he's going to go a long way."
But in a game that featured 99 combined points, it was a defensive play which put Hopewell in complete control.
With the Blue Devils trailing 35-34, Nick Fant tackled the Warriors' Aaron Monts in the backfield for a two-yard loss. On the very next play, Fant sacked quarterback Blake Bowen, setting up Hopewell to receive a punt.
"Huge," Irby said of Fant's clutch play. "For a senior to come up with those two plays on Senior Night ... Nick coming through there was big because we hadn't stopped them all night."
Yet, the key to how far this Hopewell team goes remains on the legs and arm of No. 5. While he's totaled 22 total touchdowns on the season when combining receiving and rushing touchdowns, he's averaged just 119 yards per game in Hopewell's losses.
With a playoff spot clinched and a confident team in tow, the Blue Devils know it will be up to the offensive line to continue sealing off blocks, allowing Taylor to run down an opponent's defense to continue to have success. If they accomplish that, there's no telling where this Hopewell train can finish this season.