By DAVID BORAKS
Emotions will be high at Hopewell High School in Huntersville Friday night when the Titans face W.A. Hough High of Cornelius in an I-Meck 4A conference matchup that in just three years has become one of the region’s big rivalries.
Hough, at 4-1, is having its best season since opening three years ago, but the Huskies still haven’t figured out Hopewell.
LISTEN to an audio interview with Coach Bobby Collins below.
In their first game two years ago, Hopewell “embarrassed” Hough, in the words of Huskies coach Bobby Collins, with a 35-0 shutout. Last year, the Titans escaped with a victory on a field goal in the final seconds.
“I think it’ll be a lot of emotions on the field,” Coach Collins said this week. “A lot of our young men that are playing a lot for us now came from Hopewell, a lot of our students came from Hopewell.”
The Huskies come into the game on a bit of a high, after a 33-30 win over Vance, on Dre’an Long’s last minute TD run.
Hopewell is 1-3 overall this season, but is coming off its first win, a 44-26 victory over West Charlotte last week.
He said Titans’ Coach David Johnson is doing a “good job” molding his team in his second year there. The Huskies will have to play well on defense, especially to contain the threat posed by quarterback Tijuan Sifford.
Sifford can pass and throw, as he showed in last week’s win over West Meck. The senior signal-caller passed for three touchdowns and ran for another.
Against Vance, Collins said, the Huskies “had a good game plan on both sides of the ball,” as well as on special teams. “Our kids really did a good job of executing. And for the first time, I think we played four complete quarters of football, which gave us a chance in the end to win the football game,” he said.
LEADERSHIP IS THE KEY
So how has Hough made it to four wins so early in the season?
“I think the most impressive thing so far is senior leadership,” Coach Collins said. “They’re in the mode right now of refusing to lose.”
The team is led this year by five co-captains: Blake Dueitt, Nick Burrow, Dre’an Long, Ryan Lemke, and Sanders Poff. “Not only do they push themselves, but they push this football team every day,” Collins said.
That leadership, along with a solid offensive line and a strong junior class, has the Huskies are on track for a good season, he said. The junior class includes the heart of Hough’s offense: quarterback Josh Stilley.
Stilley has hit 52 of 107 passes for 957 yards already this year, for nine touchdowns. He’s given up 3 interceptions.
Long has rushed 113 times for 603 yards and eight TDs.
At receiver, Burrow has 20 catches for 381 yards and 2 TDs, while Poff has 15 catches for 374 yards and 5 TDs.
On defense Blake Dueitt has racked up five sacks and one safety this year. And Lemke leads the team 46 tackles.
Against Hopewell, Collins says he’ll stick with his usual game plan, emphasizing the run. “I think we’ve gotta be able to run the ball effectively, we’ve gotta get 3 or 4 yards every carry,” he said.
WANT TO GO?
Hough visits Hopewell Friday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. Hopewell is at 11530 Beatties Ford Road, Huntersville.COACH COLLINS INTERVIEW
Listen to our full interview with Coach Bobby Collins. Click the play button to start. Can’t see the player or hear the audio? CLICK HERE>
(MP3, 5 mins.)