HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - Only 12 high school football teams in Virginia are practicing this week. Hopewell marks the lone Richmond area squad left standing, as the Blue Devils shoot for a Class 3 state championship on Saturday.
No team reaches this point without having to tackle at least a little bit of adversity. Hopewell got its dose of that this past weekend, having to overcome a 14 point second half deficit against Goochland. As they’ve done all season, the Blue Devils answered the call, scoring 21 unanswered points to top the Bulldogs, 35-28, and earning their shot at a state crown.
“Just proud of our resiliency,” said Hopewell head coach Ricky Irby of the comeback. “Proud of the way we overcame adversity right there, especially in the second half to be able make that comeback and kept us playing this week.”
Awaiting the unbeaten Devils- 14-and-0 Lord Botetourt, which Coach Irby says may be the biggest team he’s seen at the high school level. The Cavaliers took down Heritage, 25-14, to reach the championship game.
“We’re going to have our hands full defensively with their power running game,” observed Irby. “We’re not going to stop their running game, we just gotta hope to slow them down a little bit and make some plays on offense.”
“They’re a power running team and we love to stop the run with run-stop defense,” added senior defensive end and linebacker Keyon Williams. “We stop that and make them pass.”
This is somewhat familiar territory for Hopewell. Many current players were on the last Blue Devil team that won a state title back in 2017, so they’re used to this big stage.
“They understand what it’s like to play in a state championship game and win a state championship game, so I don’t think the moment is going to be too big for them,” said Irby. “I think they’ll be able to settle down and play and stay focused and play each play one at a time.”
A win would give Hopewell its second state title in three seasons and third since 2003. It would also mark the first time in program history that the Blue Devils have finished a season 15-0. They put together 10-0 records during the course of three straight seasons from 1949-1951, but have not posted a perfect campaign since then. While the accomplishment would mean a great deal to the players and coaches, the team also wants to reward its city for all of the support.
“I think it means more to our community,” Irby remarked. “It’s big to our kids, it’s big to our players, but this is such a great down and they really support us so much and for us to be able to put a good product on the field and something they can be proud of is really important to me.”
Junior TreVeyon Henderson has paced the Blue Devil offense this season, accumulating 2,942 all-purpose yards and 49 total touchdowns. Robert Briggs and Kaiveon Cox have been strong running backs for Hopewell, as well.
Defensively, the Devils have been hard to score on, giving up eight points or less in eight of their 14 games so far. The 28 points given up against Goochland this past Saturday were the most they’ve allowed in a game this year. It also marked just the second time Hopewell has trailed at halftime.
Hopewell and Lord Botetourt kick off at noon on Saturday at Liberty University.
Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.