Hopewell Learns Lesson In Scrimmage Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Aug 29, 2014, 08:49
Offensive coordinator Brock Parker talks to his offense during a game in which they struggled to produce any type of yardage.
HOPEWELL — Preseason games are nothing more than glorified practices and as such, results are not to be taken as a whole, but instead individually. That's why one didn't get too worked up over Hopewell's 14-13 victory over a Monacan team which qualified for the playoffs last season and it's even more important the Blue Devils players and fans don't get too down over Thursday night's ugly contest against Lake Taylor.
Let's get something out of the way really quickly — the Titans are a very good football team. Lake Taylor reached the double-digit win total last season, scoring an average of 34.3 points per game and surrendering just 9.6. Many of those same players who helped the Titans compiled such a dominating season returned this year, making a scrimmage a tough task.
Unlike during the regular season when a team will spend all week game-planning against a particular opponent, Hopewell spent little more than one day on what they would face against Lake Taylor. They knew the Titans would come with lots of pressure up front and possess a devastating read-option offensive attack, but without ample time to prepare, the Blue Devils struggled.
Facing a relentless Titans defense which stacked seven in the box, Hopewell's offense went three-and-out on all but two of their possessions throughout the game while the defense could not fair much better. Lake Taylor jumped on the Blue Devils early and often, scoring on their first five drives. It all set the tone for an eventual 53-0 loss which should be just thrown away and chalked up to a learning experience against quite possibly the best team Hopewell will face this season.
"We didn't prepare a whole lot for them, it's a scrimmage," Hopewell head coach Ricky Irby said after the game's conclusion. "The defense that they play with all the pressure they bring, when you spend a day and a half trying to prepare for that, this is what's going to happen. We can learn from it."
Possibly the most important lesson to come out of the contest is Hopewell became humbled at the sight of the scoreboard. Entering the season as Conference 26 favorites, the Blue Devils know they are a good team and have a chance to do something special this season.
However, they found out just putting on a uniform and standing in between the white lines does not make one a championship caliber team. Instead, they saw the type of effort it takes to beat a dominating opponent like Lake Taylor, a team Irby called the best he's seen in almost a decade.
After the game, in the Blue Devils' huddle, Irby reminded his team that they are, indeed, a good football team and a result like the one they received will not happen if the effort is there. It's a lesson they can revisit throughout the season.
"We learned what it takes to be a championship football team," Irby said. "Their a championship caliber team and there isn't a question about it. That's why we scheduled this scrimmage. We'll learn from it and get better."
Darrell Taylor was a bright spot for the Blue Devils as he made a handful of plays on the defensive side of the ball.
But a closer look at the Blue Devils' loss will also show the staff that there was some bright spots throughout the game. Although Hopewell's players may have been a little shellshocked early on in the contest, starting in the second quarter, there were flashes of the team they could be.
During much of the first quarter, Lake Taylor quarterback Shiheem Johnson had all the time he wanted to sit back in the pocket and survey the field before firing lasers into the hands of his receivers. However, Darrell Taylor would make his presence felt the rest of the game, flushing Johnson out of the pocket at will and nearly causing a fumble on a pass attempt on which he swiped at Johnson's throwing arm.
Then, there was also an alert play by the Blue Devils' defense when they recognized a screen-pass and immediately blew up the play in the backfield and forcing a fumble which was recovered by Jahquan Harris. Harris took the ball and immediately rumbled toward his own end zone before being tripped up after almost a 50-yard run.
Offensively, Taylor showed what he can do in the open field by taking a bubble screen forward for a 30 plus yard reception. And even Ronnie Monroe showed his speed by hauling in a pass on slant over the middle before adding more yardage after the catch. It was an example of what the offense can do when protecting the quarterback and it gives the team something to work on moving forward to the opener.
Cameron Hill attempted a quarterback keeper, but like much of the night, he was met by a sea of red.
"The thing I was disappointed was that it wasn't just one guy getting to the quarterback, it was three or four," Irby explained. "We have to a do a better job blocking, but I have all the confidence in coach Moore. He'll get them right. We'll look at the film, correct these mistakes and go at it for real next week."
And when they look at the film, perhaps the best result can be an anger growing inside of the team. No team likes to be embarrassed whether it is a scrimmage game or not and it's likely Hopewell's players will make sure they won't experience the same feeling again.
"I think it should," Irby said of the loss inciting more of a hunger. "That's one of the reasons we wanted to play them. Our schedule is tough as can be, so we want to play the good football teams. They were definitely one of them."
Last season, it took a 1-4 start before Hopewell switched gears and stormed for the playoffs with anger. Now, after a tough scrimmage loss, the Blue Devils may have gotten the boost they needed to refocus and challenge themselves to be better, heading into what can be a special season.