Commentary: Taylor's Season Is Special
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 5, 2013, 15:15
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — Tabyus Taylor lines up behind center, received the football and quickly darts to his left, following his blockers in front of him. The senior jukes to his left, then his right, springing himself down the sideline with one man to beat. He holds out his right arm, pushes the defender to the ground and completes a touchdown run.
It sounds like a dream play, but for Taylor it was a common occurrence during the 2013 Hopewell football season. The 6-foot-1 quarterback became the Blue Devils big-play threat, the leader they needed to reel off four wins in their last five game to earn a first round home playoff game.
While Hopewell's season fell short of expectations — those around the team spoke of running the table to the state championship game for the first time since 2003 — it is also a season people will talk about for a long time. The feats Taylor accomplished on Friday nights will go down in Hopewell lore as he seemingly outdid himself week after week.
"No.5, for us, was something special tonight,” Irby said of his quarterback after the Petersburg game. “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.”
It was against the Crimson Wave where Hopewell trailed by 21 points with 3:35 remaining in the first half. In a dire situation such as the one they faced, teams would normally panic. Yet, Hopewell's players did not.
The reason why? They had Taylor in the backfield.
And what he did over the final 27:25 defied logic. Taylor ran for 403 yards on just 38 carries — that's a 10.6 yard per carry average — while totaling five touchdowns. It was Taylor's coming out party, the game which announced his status as the most dangerous offensive weapon in Conference 26.
But the 403-yard outburst against Petersburg may not have been Taylor's finest performance — that came against Matoaca in a must-win for Hopewell. The Warriors' offense could not be stopped as the Blue Devils turned to Taylor to solve their own offensive woes.
He did just that en route to gaining 271 rushing yards on 29 carries for seven touchdowns. And that's without counting his 12-of-15 effort through the air for 126 yards and a touchdown.
It's performances such as this one which left opposing coaches in awe.
"Tabyus is one of the best players we've faced in a long time," Meadowbrook head coach Troy Taylor said after his team defeated Hopewell.
His final stat lines read: 2,073 rushing yards on 264 carries for 25 touchdowns. In addition, he added nine touchdowns through the air with 1,037 yards passing along with hauling in five receptions for 81 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Those numbers earned Taylor a spot on the All-Conference 26 First-Team along with the lofty accolade of being named Offensive Player of the Year. He has since followed up the awards with two official college offers from both Virginia Tech University and James Madison University.
While all of this could be discussed as overhyping a particular season, it truly is not. Taylor is the real-deal and his importance to the Hopewell offense shows why.
As a team, Hopewell totaled 317 points this season, yet 174 of those points came courtesy of their senior quarterback for 54 percent of the scoring output. However, if one adds in Taylor's passing numbers, the percentage of the scoring output he personally had a hand in rises to 71 percent.
"He’s incredible. He’s one of the best football players I’ve ever been around,” Irby gushed of Taylor after a win over Colonial Heights. “It’s a joy to watch him play and we have some talent around him and those guys stepped up to help him out tonight.”
Yet, that doesn't begin to tell the whole story.
With teams realizing the importance of Taylor to Hopewell, they began to key on him, attempting to shut him down to win the game. York High School tried a cover zero scheme which did not work as Taylor burned them first through the air and then with his legs.
But more physical teams such as Dinwiddie, Meadowbrook and Thomas Dale experienced success by not stacking the box but overloads to perceived side of the running play. And it's their strategy which led them to victories while also telling the story of the Hopewell season.
In Hopewell wins, Taylor accounted for an average rushing total of 243 yards and 2.83 touchdowns per game. In addition, the senior also threw six of his nine touchdowns in victories.
However, in losses, Taylor averaged just 109 yards on the ground and 0.66 touchdowns per contest, highlighting the importance he had on Hopewell's success this season. As Taylor went, so did the Hopewell Blue Devils as they reached the second round of the playoffs for the second-straight season.
While their season has ended, take solace in knowing fans have witnessed a season they may never see again, with a single player dominating competition and determining success or failure as much as Taylor did all year long.