Virginia Tech recruit James Hopper jump started Seventy-First High School’s (Fayetteville, N.C.) run to the Class 4A state championship game, scoring the only two scores in a 14-0 regional quarterfinal win over #1 seed Mount Tabor High School. The 5-10, 180-pound senior defensive back/running back got the job done on both sides of the ball in the win, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run in the first half and returning an interception 80 yards for the game’s only second half score.
“My game has gone to another level in the playoffs, I think,” Hopper said. “My defense definitely has. I’ve been making more plays. Teams are keying on me more on offense, but my other teammates are making plays.”
If teams have been keying on Hopper this postseason, it is for good reason. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, combined over the regular season and the team’s first few playoff games. Hopper has, however, found the end zone in each of his team’s playoff victories, including a 5-yard touchdown scamper in Seventy-First’s Western Regional Championship victory over South Mecklenburg this past Saturday.
Seventy-First, now 13-2 on the season, moves on to face Douglas Byrd in the Class 4-A state championship game on Saturday. The game will take place at Kenan Stadium on the campus of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
“We have the motivation of going and playing for a state championship,” Hopper said. “The seniors are trying to leave a mark.”
A top athlete, Hopper, who runs the 40-yard dash in under 4.4 seconds and has a 40-inch vertical leap, initially was recruited by Virginia Tech as a cornerback. Cornerback may still be his likely position, but the ability he has shown on offense could have opened up some other possibilities as well.
“I think things have changed because they know what I can do on offense,” said Hopper of the position the Tech coaches want him to play in college. “I sent them some more senior video, so I’ll let them go with that and figure it out. Wherever...
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