Matthew Jenkins has focused on changing the culture at Hopewell since taking over the program in May.“We’re having to teach them how to practice, how to do the little things that great programs do – from putting equipment away to being on time,” said the 21-year coaching veteran. “That’s a big part of the process. It’s not just Xs and Os.”Jenkins said the adjustments have been welcomed by the Titans.“Anything new kids can get excited about, they will usually buy into,” he said. “As long as you sell it enthusiastically, if you believe in what you’re doing, so will the kids.”Jenkins will have a young team at his disposal. The Titans return only four players who saw consistent playing time on varsity last year and expect five seniors to start in the season-opener against Garinger on Aug. 23.Kansas State commit Dominique Heath, a speedy 5-foot-8, 165-pound wide receiver, gives Hopewell a player to rebuild around.“It all starts around No. 4,” said Jenkins. “Any time you have a kid who’s committed to a Big 12 school, they’re going to be one of your best football players. Dominique will have to play well for us to be successful offensively.”Heath will have help from fellow senior receiver Jonquez Williams, who Jenkins points to as the team’s most improved player after watching last year’s game film.“He’s going to give us a ton of ability and speed outside,” said Jenkins.The coach adds that the Titans will go only as far as its offensive line, which is made up entirely of underclassmen, and senior quarterback Jerry Chadwick take them.Hopewell’s offense will run off variable formations.“You may see us in spread, shotgun, you may see us in two tight-ends with two backs in the game,” Jenkins said. “That allows us to emphasize what we have that given year.”The former Concord High defensive coordinator brings the Spiders’ scheme to Hopewell. The Titans will feature a four-man front, two linebackers and five defensive backs.“We want to be like pack hyenas,” Jenkins said. “Even the king of the jungle runs away. ... That’s the type of mentality we’re trying to teach. We may not be very big on the defensive side of the ball, but we’re going to use the speed that we have to get to the football.”The Titans return no starters on defense from last year’s 4-7 team.“Truthfully, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing after watching film from last year,” said Jenkins.Jenkins says the team has potential.“We’ve got some good football players,” he said. “But we’re continuing to build from the ground up, teaching fundamentals, getting them stronger in the weight room.”Senior Austin Moses, who looks to start at safety, says the team has made positive strides since Jenkins took over.“I think we’re going to be good competitors this year,” he said. “I think we can beat Hough and a lot of other teams this year.”Jenkins said aiming to defeat the rival Huskies and North Mecklenburg, as well as shooting for a MECKA 4A title and even a state championship, is the right mentality to have.“Why would the kids come out here if those aren’t our goals?” he said. “That’s every one of their goals, so we’ve got to make it our goals.”Jenkins hopes to one day build a winning tradition at Hopewell, but he knows he needs to build even more enthusiasm around his program first.“We’ve got to win some this year,” he said. “Kids walking the hallway don’t want to play for 4-7.... We’ve got to build something we can sell.”
Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013
Coaching veteran has new approach for Hopewell Titans
Hopewell Coach: Matthew Jenkins (First year). 2012 record: 4-7. Returning starters: Two. Key players: • WR Dominique Heath, 5-8, 165, Sr.: Titans offense will revolve around Kansas State commit. • WR Jonquez Williams, 5-9, 165, Sr.: The team’s other returning starter, he’ll help team with speed. Can’t-miss games: at Hough, Sept. 27; North Meck, Oct. 11, Jay M. Robinson, Oct. 25.
Tovar: 704-358-5941; Twitter: @sergiotovar
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