This past Saturday, Hopkins hit the road for a Centennial Conference matchup with the Gettysburg College Bullets. It was business as usual for Blue Jays, who picked up right where they left off before their bye week.
The Blue Jays were hot from the start against the Bullets. On their second drive of the game they scored their first of what would eventually be seven touchdowns over the course of the game.
On their next drive they got a long run from senior running back Tyler Messinger, but he fumbled the ball as he was being tackled and Gettysburg recovered. They did not let the turnover affect them, as on their next possession, they completed passes to senior wide receiver Luke McFadden on three straight plays to get their second touchdown of the quarter.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter, giving the Blue Jays the 20-7 lead heading into halftime.
Hopkins scored on its first drive of the second half, and from that point on its offense was nearly unstoppable. The Jays racked up 31 second half points and picked up their fifth consecutive dominant victory. The final score was 51-14 and the team improved to 6-1 on the season.
The Hopkins offense looked untouchable. The unit gained a whopping 520 yards throughout the course of the game.
Senior running back Stuart Walters was a major contributor to this onslaught. He led the team with 106 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, despite carrying the ball only six times. He also had a game-high 73 receiving yards, all of which came on one catch from junior quarterback David Tammaro that he took to the house. Altogether, Walters’ 179 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns earned him a Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Week nod.
Irwin and sophomore quarterback Nick Leongas also tallied rushing touchdowns during the game. Additionally, McFadden and freshman receiver Harrison Wellmann each recorded receiving touchdowns on balls thrown by Tammaro.
There is no doubt that the Blue Jays’ status as an offensive juggernaut is in large part due to their skilled players. But there is a certain group on the offense that may go overlooked by the casual observer, despite its vital role in the unit’s success.
If Tammaro doesn’t have adequate time in the pocket, he can’t make key throws. If Walters doesn’t have a running lane, he can’t break through for big gains. This, of course, is where the offensive line comes in, and the group’s importance cannot be understated.
This week, The News-Letter put the spotlight on the Hopkins offensive line and spoke to all three of its seniors: tackle Laurence Okeke, center Jarrett Smith and guard Zack Toussaint.
The O-Line: winning games in the trenches
In order for an offensive line to operate effectively, all of the players need to feel extremely comfortable working alongside each other because their success as a group is mutually dependent. Toussaint detailed the role that trust plays in building a formidable offensive line.
“Being on an offensive line is like being on a team within a team. Us older guys have come up through the years working together and I think that you can see that in how we operate. We know each other’s styles and that is really helpful when you need to pick up a twist or make an adjustment to the defense. Trust is everything, and I think that as an offensive line we have built that trust over the years and it really shows in how we’re performing,” Toussaint said.
Smith also discussed the importance of trust on the offensive line and explained how this trust plays into the offense’s success on a play-to-play basis.
“We have great players at the skill positions, so first and foremost, it is our job to give them a chance to work. Protect the quarterback, get a crease for the running backs, etc. If everyone on the O-Line isn’t communicating, we can’t do our job and then we put our offense in a bad spot,” Smith said.
“Everyone has to be on the same page for our offense to work. Sometimes, communication has to be unspoken and guys have to see something, know their assignment changes and trust that the person next to them is on the same page. This trust doesn’t come overnight. It is developed through countless reps and practice,” he added.
Mule Week: all or nothing
This season, the Blue Jays are aiming to win at least a share of the Centennial Conference title for the 10th consecutive year. In order to accomplish this feat, they will need to knock off undefeated Muhlenberg College this Saturday. It’s safe to say that there will be no love lost when the two teams face off on Homewood Field. Okeke talked about the team’s mindset ahead this must-win game.
“I’m expecting everyone to be really amped up and excited to play against Muhlenberg. They’re a very good team and we all love to compete. With that extra excitement, I expect a heightened level of intensity during practice, especially during our scout periods. Besides that, it is business as usual,” Okeke said.
Toussaint also added his thoughts on the team’s preparation ahead of their matchup with the Mules.
“We always preach that every game is just as important as the last one. And, particularly this season, that is the case as every win is essential in achieving our goals. But Muhlenberg has always felt a little different. They’re a great program with a lot of pride and tradition, and it has always been exciting to play them. The past few years have been thrillers, and given the implications of this game for both teams, I can guarantee that this one won’t disappoint,“ Toussaint said.
He also added that the team will be working extra hard to prepare to face off against Muhlenberg.
“As far as preparation, every week you need to give your all in preparation, so there shouldn’t be huge differences in week-to-week preparation, but there is always a little extra energy in the air during Mule week. We know that they are getting better every day, so any step back is really detrimental to our goals. I guarantee that we are doing everything in our power to make sure that we put ourselves in the best position for Saturday,” he said.
Smith touched on the specific challenges that the unit will face when it takes the field on Saturday.
“Muhlenberg’s front seven is always good. They’re fast, physical and throw a lot of looks at you. It’s why they’re always at the top of the Centennial. This week of preparation will be huge for us. We have to get ready for a fight because we know we will get their all on Saturday. These games are why you go to Hopkins and Muhlenberg,” Smith said.
Senior year: one last hurrah
For the seniors, particularly, the ends of their Hopkins football careers are rapidly approaching. They have had quite the four-year journey and are only a handful of games away from potentially leaving the program with four Centennial Conference Champion rings. Okeke detailed his thoughts on his senior season and what he still hopes to achieve before the season comes to a close.
“I’m content with how the season has progressed so far. Obviously, we would have preferred not to lose our game against Susquehanna, but we still have all of the goals we set for ourselves before the season ahead of us. Every year we want to win the Conference title and if we win out, we still accomplish that. After that, we want to win as many playoff games as possible. I hope our legacy is that we left the program in a better place than when we came here freshman year,” Okeke said.
Make sure to catch the Blue Jays and the Mules when they square off this Saturday at Homewood Field. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.