Titans fall short of first-round playoff glory

by Aaron Burns

HUNTERSVILLE – Close games were the difference for Hopewell High’s football team in the 2012 season.

Titans running back Deshjion Whitlock used hard running to guide the Titans to the Class 4A state playoffs. (Aaron Burns/MI Monitor photo)

The Titans had tight games against East Lincoln, Ardrey Kell, Mooresville, Vance, North Mecklenburg and South Caldwell. The difference between a dominant team and one that won just four games was Hopewell’s inability to win those close contests.

Hopewell went 2-3 in regular-season games decided by a touchdown or less, a major factor in the Titans being able to secure the No. 16 seed in the Class 4A state playoffs.  Their result in the postseason was more of the same: a hard-fought 17-14 loss on Nov. 2 to top-seeded South Caldwell in the first round.

The Titans’ offense was seldom an issue all season.

Hopewell averaged more than 29 points per game, a number most would expect could lead to more than a 4-7 overall record and 4-3 mark in I-MECK 4A conference play.

They eclipsed the 40-point mark three times. Quarterback Tijuan Sifford anchored coach David Johnson’s potent offense.

Sifford guided the Titans to their closest win of the year, a 33-31 triumph on Oct. 5 over Mooresville. Hopewell had trailed Mooresville much of the night before
Sifford threw a late, deep pass to set up the Titans’ winning score.

“That’s what you’ve got to expect out of a senior,” Johnson said.

Hopewell High offensive standouts, from left, Tijuan Sifford, Dominique Heath and Jonquez Williams, ignited the Titans’ offense late in the season. (Aaron Burns/MI Monitor photo)

Sifford said Hopewell rebounded well from an 0-3 start, but struggled to keep everyone on the same page all season.

“It’s all about everything, offense, defense, and special teams,” Sifford said.

Defense hurt the Titans in the worst way.

Fifty-nine points weren’t enough to clinch a win over East Lincoln on Aug. 24, because the Titans’ defense and special teams allowed 61.

But Hopewell’s wins over Mooresville and North Mecklenburg late in the season propelled the Titans to the playoffs.

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