The Hopewell Valley Central High School football team had an adequate season in 2018, finishing 5-4 and narrowly missing the NJSIAA playoffs. Hopewell Valley even outscored its opponents, 172-126, over the course of the season.
The Bulldogs were solid on both sides of the ball and they could be again in 2019, especially on defense, as a multitude of key players are back across the unit.
Hopewell Valley will kick off its regular season at home on Sept. 13 against Lawrence High School at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs lost most of the key offensive contributors from its 2018 squad, including running back Steven Doldy and running back/wide receiver Brennan Rouse, who combined for 10 touchdowns a year ago. Hopewell Valley also lost kicker Robert Cacciabaudo, who scored 42 points in 2018, missing just three of his 29 kicks between extra points and field goals.
But the squad is bringing back the important players from its defense, which was also its strength last fall.
Outside linebacker Michael Randazzo recorded 34 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in 2018. Middle linebacker Christian Cacciabaudo posted 33 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Defensive tackle Terrance Peterson Jr. racked up 58 tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Defensive end Hudson Hartman put up 30 tackles, six tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.
The talent in the front seven, should match up well against the open offenses Hopewell Valley will see across Mercer County. It certainly did last year.
These were the scores of Hopewell Valley’s victories last fall: 10-8 over Lawrence High School; 19-7 over Steinert High School; 49-6 over Princeton High School; 26-0 over Hightstown High School; and 36-15 over North Plainfield High School. The Bulldogs suffocated opposing offenses and gave its own offense every opportunity to score enough points to win.
They even did that in a couple defeats, holding Nottingham High School and Hamilton High School West to 17 points or less.
Hopewell Valley’s defense was great last year, and now those returning players are a year older and better. If the Bulldogs break through and make the playoffs this fall, its defense could spark a run.
But to really make a run, the Bulldogs will have to figure out its offense. Starting quarterback Brett Confer, a junior last year, is at least back for 2019. He accounted for five touchdowns last year, but Hopewell Valley was mostly a running offense, running more than twice as many times as it threw the ball.
That may change in 2019, or it may not. Hopewell Valley’s offense is still a question mark in almost every way.
The team will follow up its home opener with a road game at Steinert High School on Sept. 21 in Hamilton and a home game against Ewing High School on Sept. 27.
Hopewell Valley’s regular season will consist of nine games and run consecutively through the first weekend in November.