Improvements in strength, conditioning to be key for Hopewell
Wednesday, August 26, 2020 | 11:44 PM
Hopewell was a first-half football team a year ago. The Vikings came out strong each game with energy, excitement and the competitive juices flowing.
Too often, however, they ran out of gas in the second half.
Second-year coach Matt Weiss wants to make sure that trend doesn’t continue this season.
“I’d like to see us finish in the second half, keep that competitiveness that we had in first half and carry over to the second half,” said Weiss, whose team went 2-8 overall and 2-5 in the Class 3A Tri-County West Conference.
“We need to be well-conditioned. We need to be the best conditioned team in Triple-A.”
To do that, Hopewell brought in a strength and conditioning coach. Athletic trainer Jason Daley helped mold the Vikings in the offseason, installing a program to maximize their bodies.
Not even a pandemic quarantine could slow their offseason effort, Weiss said.
Helping to lead the charge is junior Micah Kimbrough. The Vikings’ leading rusher last season, Kimbrough will move under center this year to replace graduate Jay’von Jeter, who threw for 1,463 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“Micah was voted a team captain as only a junior,” Weiss said. “It’s his team to grab and take the reins of. We’re looking for big things from him. He’s put in the work in the offseason.
“He’s just a pure athlete. His vision as a runner is pretty incredible. He did really well for us last year running the football.”
Kimbrough has embraced the change and the leadership role that comes along with it.
“A lot of kids look up to me,” Kimbrough said. “They’ve been looking up to me since freshman year because they know what I’m capable of.”
Kimbrough ran for 629 yards and seven scores last season. He will continue to run but also has developed as a passer to keep defenses honest.
“I expect a lot from our offense,” Kimbrough said. “We’ve been looking real good.
“I’ve been working on my throwing a lot, more than running, especially quick routes.”
Senior Tanner Dobbins will join Kimbrough in the backfield. He saw limited time on offense last season but will bring plenty of size and power to the running game.
“Tanner primarily played defense last year. We’re tying to get him in the mix running the football,” Weiss said. “He’s a hard, downhill runner. His hard-nosed toughness on defense will help on offense to give us a change of pace.”
Dobbins also will anchor the defense at middle linebacker, where he had more than 100 tackles a year ago.
“His motor doesn’t stop running,” Weiss said. “He really takes control of the defense. And those guys feed off him.”
Kimbrough’s top target will be junior Jamar Jeter, who caught 21 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns last season. Weiss plans to use him in the slot but also move him around to the outside and in the backfield.
Senior tight end Connor Wayne (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) also returns and will be used in the backfield and on the outside in some formations. He caught 11 passes last season.
A pair of anchors return to the offense line in seniors Jacob Forrest (6-6, 335) and Cole Carpenter (5-10, 270).
“Jacob was pretty raw when we got here last year, but he’s put in the work in the offseason, put on a lot of muscle,” Weiss said. “He’s got the attention of some schools. He’s really worked on his craft, like run-blocking technique and pass blocking. He’s come a long way.
“Cole was solid for us last year. He lost some weight and got in better shape. Those two will anchor our offensive line and defensive line.”
Hopewell will compete in the revamped Class 3A Northwestern Six Conference this season with familiar foes Central Valley, Keystone Oaks and Quaker Valley. Ambridge and Avonworth, last year’s WPIAL Class 2A champion, also join the fold.
“We have a good shot of making the playoffs,” Weiss said. “With the talent we have coming back and the hard work and mindset these guys had in the offseason, I like our chances.”
Hopewell will be tested right off the bat, hosting defending WPIAL champion Central Valley on Sept. 11. After nonconference games at Montour and against Chartiers Valley, the Vikings finish off with four straight conference contests.
“The top team in the conference is Central Valley. That doesn’t change,” Weiss said. “We get them Week 1, so that gives us a heightened sense of urgency.
“Our section is competitive but is also setting us up that we can put some wins together.”
Coach: Matt Weiss
2019 record: 2-8, 2-5 in Class 3A Tri-County West
All-time record: 362-383-25
Date, Opponent, Time
9.11, Central Valley*, 7
9.18, at Montour, 7
9.25, Chartiers Valley, 7
10.2, at Ambridge*, 7
10.9, Quaker Valley*, 7
10.16, Avonworth*, 7
10.23, at Keystone Oaks*, 7
*Class 3A Northwestern Six Conference game
Passing: Jay’von Jeter*
92-202, 1,463 yards, 12 TDs
Receiving: Alex Obeldobel*
28-473 yards, 7 TDs
Rushing: Micah Kimbrough
99-629 yards, 7 TDs
• Hopewell returns six starters on offense and seven on defense this season.
• Weiss, a Rochester graduate, was an offensive coordinator and line coach at his alma mater from 2009-18.
• Hopewell won its lone WPIAL title in 2002 while playing in Class AAA.
• The Vikings’ last WPIAL playoff appearance was in 2012. After defeating Hampton in the first round, Hopewell fell to Central Valley in the quarterfinals.
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at email@example.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
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