Norcom QB Jacoby Smith (File Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
Jacoby Smith overcomes two interceptions to lead Norcom over Hopewell, 14-12
by Brandon Mitchell, recruit757
With 6:14 left in the second quarter, Hopewell starting defensive back Trey Henderson stepped in front of a Jacoby Smith heave and picked it off at the Blue Devils’10-yard line. It was a play that didn’t lead to much for the Blue Devils. As a matter of fact, Hopewell went on to hold the ball for only three minutes after intercepting Jacoby Smith for the second time on the evening. Their field position enabled them from getting anything substantial started as the Blue Devils went on to punt for the second time for the evening.
The poise displayed by Smith afterwards down the stretch helped him complete 6-of-11 passes for 81 yards to help the Greyhounds knock off the defending 3A state champion Hopewell Blue Devils, 14-12.
This time last season, Norcom was at home recovering from a 10-7, 3A regional quarter-final loss at the hands of Lakeland. It was at a time when the Greyhounds were favored to make a dominant run, however; injuries stood in the way of Norcom standing on the right side of history. On Friday night, the Greyhounds were able to gain redemption against a Hopewell program that embarrassed them during the first week of the season knocking off Norcom 13-0. Greyhounds’ head coach Larry Archie believes Norcom is a different team and there’s many people out there that agree with him.
“I think we were a different team than we were the first game,” Coach Archie told recruit757. “We had some pieces back to the puzzle that made a difference tonight, Antwaun Powell in particular. We’re a better team and they are too. We just made a few more plays and were able to come out with the win.”
Norcom came out in their first possession of the game eating up almost five minutes off the clock, but were unable to produce any points on the board. Penalties played against the Greyhounds throughout most of the contest rearing its head especially during their first drive. Hopewell would take advantage of the Greyhounds inability to get anything started and score on its opening drive of the contest.
On the second play of their drive, Daniel Grier connected with Trey Henderson on a 59-yard pitch and catch for a touchdown. Preston Haden’s extra point would go on to sail left giving the Blue Devils just a six-point lead. Norcom didn’t waste anytime on its next drive with Jacoby Smith finding what looked to be a 14-yard touchdown pass to Casaan Dixon. However, Dixon fumbled the ball into the end zone. The fumble was recovered by Celon Lawrence for the Greyhounds first score. The extra point put Norcom up 7-6 with 3:36 left in the first quarter.
On the Greyhounds next possession, Reggie Ruffin stepped in front of a Jacoby Smith pass for the game’s first turnover. Norcom would take over in the second quarter after a Hopewell punt with Jacoby Smith linking up with Karon Prunty for the Greyhounds’ second score of the contest. The extra point put Norcom up 14-6 with eight minutes left in the second quarter. Hopewell went on to fumble its next possession away, but was able to gain it right back when Trey Henderson picked off Jacoby Smith midway through the second quarter.
“You just have to keep working.” Jacoby Smith stated. “You’re going to make a mistake. You just have to get over it and keep playing.”
Hopewell came out at the start of the third quarter making no mistakes. The Blue Devils were able to march downfield and put the ball in the end zone from eight yards out off the legs of Trey Henderson bringing the contest within two points. Hopewell lined up for a two-point conversion which ended up falling short of the end zone giving the Greyhounds a 14-12 lead. On the Blue Devils next possession, they turned the ball over on downs. On their first true possession of the fourth quarter, Hopewell went three-an-out within 38 seconds of receiving the ball.
Hopewell would get the ball back once more converting on fourth down with less than three minutes on the clock. The Blue Devils were able to get as far as the Norcom 25-yard line before falling short on fourth down by half a yard.
“One day at a time. We’re still a young team. We make a lot of mistakes and we had a lot of penalties. There’s things we need to clean up, but we have enough guys to make plays to get us the win,” Coach Archie said.
Hopewell: The Blue Devils had a remarkable season and have no reason to hang their heads low. When you’re a champion, you’re going to get the absolute best from every team you face on every single Friday. Hopewell came into the football season knowing that a few pieces were removed from the roster and were still able to have a better regular season than they did last season. Looking forward into next season, many pieces will remain in place from what we saw this season. Robert Briggs and Kaiveon Cox will remain in the backfield just as Anthony Hale and Reggie Ruffin will continue to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. However, expect the Blue Devils to be on the lookout for another quarterback with Daniel Grier graduating. Also, expect the wide receiver group to look different with Kadarius Singleton, Sean Allen and Mark Williams gone.
Norcom: Hopewell was without its top running back in Robert Briggs on Friday night. He was someone that rushed for over 100 yards the last time these two teams met up in August. Throughout the rest of the playoffs, it’ll be hard to imagine the Greyhounds running into a backfield that is collectively as talented as Hopewell. The combination of Trey Henderson and Kaiveon Cox was almost enough to lift the Blue Devils over the Greyhounds. The fact that Norcom was able to contain those two over the course of 48 minutes shows just how much the defense has evolved since their week one matchup. Despite throwing two interceptions, Jacoby Smith did a great job of exploiting defensive back matchups that watched him connect to six different receivers including Celon Lawrence on a play that was called back. It’s hard not to like the Greyhounds moving forward despite a key matchup against Phoebus next week.
Hopewell will go home and rest up while Norcom will travel on to Darling Stadium in a prime matchup against Phoebus next Friday. The Phantoms were able to get by York on Friday night 21-13 and will be matching up with the Greyhounds for the first time since suffering a loss in the 3A region quarter-finals back in 2016. Both teams will be fighting for a chance to advance to the Division 3 state semi-finals.
– Brandon Mitchell