Hopewell Starts Playoff Run in Fine Fashion!
34-17 Win Over Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington
by Jeff Butler
Fresh off an exciting close to their regular season beating Prince George at home on Senior Night, and celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 2003 team’s state championship, the number one ranked Blue Devils (Region 3A) embarked last Thursday upon another journey towards a possible 2023 state championship.
Playing a night earlier to avoid anticipated Friday rain, the Merner Field crowd did see a strong initial push from the Bookers ( 5-6) - incentivized for an upset. They embarked upon a 12-play drive, until a sack on a blitz by Senior linebacker Pierre McNight forced a punt.
However, Booker’s defense returned the favor forcing our Blue Devils, after an initial first down, to punt it back. But then, a low snap to punter Jeremiah Mackin caused his knee to touch the ground before the punt around the 23-yard line of Hopewell, and the B.T. Washington offense received a fresh set of downs.
Our defense though stiffened forcing a fourth down field goal attempt, which was good from 32 yards out to give the Bookers an early 3-0 lead.
On our next drive, Hopewell began to show some signs of life: Junior quarterback Mic’Kahari Tatum sped around the right end for four yards. Two plays later, Senior Kesean Henderson churned out 8 yards for a first down, as the first quarter came to a close. However, two plays later, Tatum was intercepted on a pass he should have just thrown away.
But then, the Hopewell defense forced another three and out, with the Bookers having a punting challenge of their own. The snap sailed over the punter’s head, yet somehow he retrieved it and got the kick off the side of his foot. It was truly amazing that he got 17 yards out of the punt.
As Hopewell got the ball back at their own 35, Tatum made another great fake to a tailback before heading around the right end for 8 yards. It was then Junior Cam Hunt for two yards and a first down - but just the team’s third first down. However, it was the first of 5 consecutive first downs on a 12-play 66-yard drive that culminated in Hunt’s 1-yard touchdown run to give Hopewell a lead they would never relinquish 7-3.
When Hopewell got the ball back after the defense stopped the Bookers yet again, they embarked upon another successful drive - 13 plays covering 67 yards.
Highlights included Tatum rolling right and completing a 20-yard jump pass
to Senior Cam Minter. Then, play thirteen involved another successful Tatum pass - this one from the 3-yard line that led Senior Antonio Cherry perfectly into the deepest part of the left end zone to help make the score 14 -3 at the half.
Hopewell continued to pour in in the third quarter as they received the opening kickoff and cranked out three more first downs before Tatum, to avoid a sack, tried to throw the ball near the feet of a receiver. However, the referees ruled that he fumbled the ball away. But as the Hopewell defense continued to shine, it forced another punt four plays later, and the Blue Devils made it a 20-3 game with a 9-play 52-yard drive. This sequence featured another good pass to wide receiver Minter for 17 yards, and another one-yard touchdown run from Hunt, as he quickly moved from his tailback position to up under center to sneak it for the touchdown. Mackin’s rare extra-point miss was the only one missed in Hopewell’s 5 touchdowns.
Hopewell’s defense continued to exert its will with Senior Tyekwon Parker’s interception. Later in the quarter, the team got its fourth touchdown as Senior Patrick Scott gained 50 yards on three carries - the last being a 16-yard TD run which which made it a 27-3 game. It was Hopewell’s 21st first down.
As Head Coach Ricky Irby began to freely substitute for the rest of the game, the Bookers had a few more scores in them, but Hopewell’s Hunt did as well. On a third and 7 from the Booker 34, Offensive coordinator Brock Parker called for the left guard to pull, and become an extra blocker as Hunt, waited a second, then sped off right tackle. Initially hit around the thirty, he deftly spun out of the tackle and outraced the rest of the Bookers to the goal line to complete the
touchdown - his third of the contest.
For the game, the team gained 313 yards on the ground. Hunt led the way with 137 yds on 19 carries ( 7.2 yards per carry), while Scott churned out 63 yds ( 7.9 yds per carry) and Henderson added 50, ( 7.1 yds per carry.) Tatum hit on 50% of his passes ( 8-16 ) for 96 yards. Sophomore Cornelius Cooke caught 3 of them for 25 yards, and Minter and Cherry added two each.
Defensively, Scott again led the way with 9 tackles, and became Hopewell’s all-time leading tackler in the process! The team recorded 6 sacks, and Senior Wisdom Lightner, back from an injured knee, got two of them along with 4 tackles. Hunt and Cherry added 8 and 7 tackles respectively, as the team recorded 8 tackles for losses.
Hopewell now turns its attention tonight to another team from the Tidewater area:
Heritage out of Newport News.
They come to Hopewell tonight fresh off a 44-14 win over Grafton ( 6-5), and have won their last 5 games. Our Blue Devils ( 8-3) have won two in a row after almost gaining an upset over unbeaten Thomas Dale. They are the 6th highest-ranked Class 3 team in the state, while Heritage comes in ranked 17th.
We hope you will come out tonight to root for our Blue Devils in person!
If you can’t make it, WHAP Radio will have the call of the game, starting with the Coach Irby show at 6:30 PM.
Jeff Butler calls the play-by-play for Hopewell, along with commentator Stefan Calos.