After Henry Lewis ran wild during Hopewell Valley Central High School’s 2-0 start to the football season, the Bulldogs knew they would have to tweak their strategy moving forward.
Opponents would absolutely be ready for a running back who racked up 366 yards and four touchdowns in the season’s first two games. Hopewell Valley would have to open it up on Sept. 27 at Ewing High School.
It worked almost to perfection.
Quarterback Brett Confer led the Bulldogs to a 45-13 victory over Ewing, completing eight of 11 passes for 153 yards and four touchdowns. Confer threw his touchdowns to four different receivers in Tommy Belsky, Devin Higgins, Trevor Radice and Terrance Peterson.
Lewis was still a major factor, rushing for 123 yards and two scores. But the Bulldogs are 3-0 because they grew into a two-dimensional offense.
Hopewell Valley coach Dave Caldwell expected things to click for his senior quarterback at some point. Confer is a 6-3, 190-pound, second-year starter. He has the size and experience.
It was only a matter of time.
“Brett started five games last year and had some good games,” Caldwell said. “He’s used to it.”
It’s a valid point, especially since Hopewell Valley’s early struggles in the passing game weren’t totally Confer’s fault. In Hopewell Valley’s 21-0 victory over Lawrence High School on Sept. 13, the quarterback was sacked five times on 11 passing plays.
The Bulldogs’ line was steamrolling opponents as a run blocking unit, but struggling as a pass blocking unit.
“The protection broke down a few times,” Caldwell acknowledged.
On Sept. 27, though, the offensive line of left guard Nick Melillo, right guard Hudson Hartman, left tackle James Stanton, right tackle Cooper Silver and center Ryan Pisauro got it together as a pass blocking unit, too. Since they were already thriving as run blockers, they showed they can be a complete and elite offensive line.
“They are all hard working and smart,” Caldwell said.
It was only one game, but if Hopewell Valley continues to throw like this, the Bulldogs will not have a weakness going forward.
Lewis is one of the best backs in Mercer County. Confer and the receivers have electric potential. And Hopewell Valley’s defense is actually the team’s biggest strength.
The Bulldogs have allowed just 20 points in three games. All 20 points came late in Hopewell Valley’s last two games, too, when the results were already in hand.
Peterson, who is primarily a defensive lineman, is busting up backfields and opening the field for his teammates. The Bulldogs amassed seven sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss in the first two games alone.
Even Hopewell Valley’s special teams unit is playing well. Kicker Cole Pinto made six extra points and a 25-yard field goal against Ewing, going seven for seven overall and earning the 12th Man TD Club’s Special Teams Player of the Week award.
Everything is clicking for the Bulldogs. They will try to keep rolling on Oct. 5 at Nottingham High School. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
“We like where we’re at but we don’t feel we’ve exceeded expectations,” Caldwell said. “We feel like we’ve met them.”
“But we also realized we left a lot on the table in those games,” he added. “So we’re happy but not totally satisfied.”