For Immediate Release
August 23, 2011
Courtesy of the Waltham News Tribune, Written by Scott Souza
Watham, Mass. - A year ago, Steve Hopkins could barely jog without pain after breaking his leg in the final game of the previous season. Now the Waltham High alumnus and Bentley University senior is eager to hit the ground running with a Falcon squad looking for a fourth straight Northeast-10 championship.
Steve Hopkins and his brother, Don, are two of the four Bentley captains hoping to set the tone in preseason for a run at the Division II national playoffs. Despite tying for the league title for the third year in a row last fall, it was a disappointing season in many ways as the Falcons started 1-4, had a game cancelled against Pace that left them with only three home dates, and finished a mediocre 5-4 despite a four-game win streak to end the year.
It was also a bittersweet season for Steve Hopkins, who was a starting safety and NE-10 Defensive Player of the Week coming off the injury, but was still hobbled by the rod inserted in his leg to stabilize the break.
"Last year was tough," he said during preseason workouts this week. "I was definitely struggling. This year feels a lot stronger. I am getting some pain here and there, but it's a lot better. It's nothing that should bother me enough to keep me from playing."
Steve Hopkins was unable to participate in any offseason workouts last year, and admitted there was a time in the summer when he doubted he could play the season, but has been able to take part in everything in advance of this year's training camp.
"It's definitely a big difference," he said. "I got to do the summer workout program here and put on about 10 pounds from that. I'm in shape. I can tell on the field too. I was a completely different player last year. It was something I had to deal with. We didn't have the depth that would allow me to sit out. I just sucked it up and played the year. This year is going to be a lot different, hopefully, because I'm feeling good."
Steve Hopkins will again line up in the defensive backfield next to his brother, who has been named to a pair of preseason Division II All-America teams.
"It's definitely something to live up to," Don Hopkins said. "It was a great honor. I never want to take it for granted. I love everything about it, but I rely on the entire defense as a whole. As we go, I go, and I want to keep it going."
As captains, the Hopkins brothers are looking to set the tone for the team's younger players – including red-shirt freshman center James LaShoto and freshman backBrad Keirstead, both also of Waltham – as the Falcons look to get off to a better start than the one that doomed their playoff hopes last season.
"It was definitely frustrating because we knew were a better team than that," Steve Hopkins said. "We had a chance to win every game. We were a 5-4 team and we could have easily been 9-0. One or two plays in each of those games could have went our way and made the difference.
"We tied for the league championship each of the three years I've been here, which is frustrating as well because we feel we are a top team in this league and we are sick of tying. We want it for ourselves."
The Falcons open the season at home this year against SUNY-Maritime on Sept. 2 before hosting a Division II playoff team in West Virginia-Wesleyan on Sept. 10.
"The feeling we had last year starting off with a loss on the road was a miserable, miserable feeling," Don Hopkins said. "This year we doubled the intensity, doubled the lifting and really want to come out of the gate flying. We have new uniforms for the first game at home – it's going to be a great atmosphere – so we want to come out flying and start 1-0."
Also returning as a Bentley captain is three-year starting quarterback Bryant Johnson. Johnson is the reigning NE-10 MVP after throwing for 18 touchdowns, running for five more, and completing a school-record 65.9 percent of his passes last season. After red-shirting his freshman year, Johnson exercised his fifth-year option once he got into graduate school.
"We had very high expectations going into last year," Johnson said. "We had so many guys coming back, so many guys with experience, and we really felt we had one of the best teams Bentley's had in a while. Coming off the first two losses to good opponents we were a little bit down. As captains, we tried to rally the guys. But then we lost two more games we shouldn't have lost.
"I think that will help us going into this season because we saw how much it hurt. We had such high expectations, But we saw if you don't come with your 'A' game every week, you're going to get beat in this league because everyone is so good. Knowing that, this year we won't allow for any letdowns. We will treat every game like a playoff game."
Bentley coach Thom Boerman said he hasn't spent much time dwelling on last year's disappointments, instead looking to build on this year's strengths. Although the team was only picked fourth in the NE-10 preseason poll released this week, optimism is overflowing on the Beaver Street turf.
"Our approach is more refined than last year," Boerman said. "I think we're farther down the road with our offensive strategy and philosophy. Defensively, we're reloading a little bit.
"We're not looking back to last year as missed opportunities. It happened. But as badly as we played at times we tied for the league title. Now that doesn't really mean a damn thing. But it shows we are on the right track."