Thomas Dale Head Coach Kevin Tucker (Video Still: Brandon Mitchell/recruit804)
DeAngelo Gray, Chris Tyree lead Thomas Dale in overtime over Hopewell, 49-42
by Brandon Mitchell, recruit804
Everything went right for Hopewell on Friday night against Thomas Dale at Merner Field until it didn’t.
Coach Ricky Irby and the Blue Devils’ coaching staff deployed an impressive game plan to ensure that everyone outside of running back Chris Tyree remained at bay. Tyree went on to rush for 113 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown on the evening making him the point man on Friday night. Knights starting quarterback Courtenay Burrell went out with an undisclosed injury in the second half with only 83 passing yards and two interceptions to show before his exit on the evening.
What the Blue Devils didn’t account for was the move made by Coach Kevin Tucker after Burrell was removed from the contest. Thomas Dale proceeded to move DeAngelo Gray to quarterback which allowed him to run out of a modified Wildcat formation throughout the rest of the game.
The end result was the game-tying touchdown with a little over a minute left in the fourth quarter and the two touchdowns needed to earn a victory at Merner Field over Hopewell 49-42.
“We lose our quarterback and that’s the fourth quarterback we’ve used this year,” Coach Tucker stated. “You get a guy like DeAngelo Gray that we’ve been practicing the Wildcat with and you get the ball down seven (points) with three minutes to go and he leads us to a score. The defense had a great stop to give us the ball back to give us that chance. The kids believe in this and they don’t even have that quit in them.”
The back and forth affair started on Hopewell’s first possession of the first quarter. Robert Briggs took the opening drive and ended it with a four-yard touchdown run to put the Blue Devils up 7-0. Courtenay Burrell took over for the Knights on their opening drive and tied the game at seven on a one-yard touchdown run. With Hopewell driving in Thomas Dale territory on its next possession, DeAngelo Gray scooped up a fumble and took it in the end zone from 85-yards out to put the Knights on top 14-7.
Thomas Dale wasn’t able to hold the lead for long allowing Briggs to pick up his second touchdown of the quarter this time from 46-yards out to tie the game up at 14 apiece. With 10:34 left in the second quarter, Anthony Hale stepped in front of a Courtenay Burrell pass to put the Blue Devils back in business close to midfield. Daniel Grier would capitalize on the gift connecting with Kadarius Singleton from 10-yards out to put the Blue Devils up 21-14. Midway through the second quarter, Grier lost the ball on a pitch which set up Chris Tyree for six-yard touchdown run yet again knotting the game at 21.
However, Sean Allen would break the tie for Hopewell by returning the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown putting the Blue Devils up before halftime 28-21. Thomas Dale would keep pace with Hopewell by bleeding four minutes off the game clock in the second quarter and capping their drive with an Adam Hall three-yard touchdown run. 56 points were scored between Thomas Dale and Hopewell within the first two quarters, but the next one wouldn’t come until almost midway through the fourth quarter.
Briggs would go on to find the end zone from 15-yards out pinballing his way to a 35-28 lead for the Blue Devils. On the Knights next possession, Daquan Blow looked to put a fork in the contest by picking off Burrell with 6:39 left in the game. Hopewell took as much time off the clock as they could, but turned the ball over on downs with 3:03 left in the fourth frame. This proved to be enough time for Gray to find the end one from 42-yards out to bring the game to 35 apiece with 1:17 left. In overtime, the Blue Devils received a huge lift from Briggs who helped usher their first score. After that, it was all DeAngelo Gray who scored on Thomas Dale’s next two possessions to help lead the Knights over Hopewell 49-42.
“We knew DeAngelo Gray was a special guy when we got him,” Coach Tucker stated. “There’s only one football on the field at a time and we game plan each week to make sure we get him 10-12 touches per game. Chris (Tyree) is going to get the majority of the touches, but the Wildcat offense tonight practicing over the last three to four weeks came in handy.”
Hopewell:Is there anything negative to say about the Blue Devils about their double-overtime loss on Friday night to Thomas Dale? Absolutely not.
Remember, this is a Hopewell team that lost 41-6 last year on the road only to come back this year without Greg Cuffey, Ronnie Walker or Reizon Murphy and take Thomas Dale into double-overtime. Robert Briggs rushed for 187 yards and three touchdowns and cleared injury protocol earlier this week after being deemed questionable on Monday. Daniel Grier connected on 12-of-20 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown on the day while Reggie Ruffin was his usual disruptive self. Thomas Dale has a lot of heart and Hopewell just ran into a team that left it all out on the field. I expect this loss to not affect Hopewell in any type of adverse way.
Thomas Dale: The Knights may not have the best record of all the teams in the Central Region, but they do have the most heart out of any team in the Central Region. This was supposed to be an easier season for the Knights.
They were supposed to walk through Region 6B and be right up there with Manchester when it was all said and done, but injuries derailed a perfect season. However, the coaching staff at Thomas Dale continues to make all the right decisions and it continued on Friday night against Hopewell. The Knights picked a perfect time to deploy the Wildcat formation and they didn’t leak the formation in any other game which helped keep Hopewell off their trail. Even when the Blue Devils began to pick up motion by Chris Tyree, the front seven couldn’t keep pace with DeAngelo Gray. Despite the success the Knights were able to achieve, I don’t expect them to continue using this set as their primary go-to for the offense.
FINAL: Thomas Dale 49, Hopewell 42
Hopewell (6-1): Dinwiddie (8-0) had another great outing on Friday night knocking off Petersburg 56-20. Last year the Generals knocked off Hopewell 24-6 on the road. This time Dinwiddie will get to catch the Blue Devils at home on Friday night.
Thomas Dale (6-2): Granby (0-8) is having its worst season under Sekou Wilson and it looks like it won’t get any better on Friday night. The Comets traveled to Chester last year, but this year it’s Thomas Dale making the trip out to Norfolk. Don’t expect the Knights to have a letdown even with the amount of injuries they have stacked against them.
– Brandon Mitchell