Reflections on The Bulldogs Successful 2022 Football Season

Team picture after win against Burlington Township NJSIAA Tournament, Semifinal Round, South Jersey, Group 3

Win against Burlington Township in the NJSIAA Tournament, Semifinal Round, South Jersey, Group 3

The momentous 2022 football season for the Hopewell Valley Bulldogs has come to a close and congratulations are in order. The 2022 season marked the first time in school history that the team went undefeated in the regular season and they continued this winning streak up until the final round of the NJSIAA playoffs, South Jersey, Group 3. The Bulldogs thrashed fierce rivals such as Notre Dame and paved their way to the final round of the NJSIAA playoffs, where they suffered their only loss of the season to Delsea (South Jersey), a top five team in the state.

This year’s senior team captains had an opportunity to reflect on their past four seasons, how they persevered through COVID, and grew as a team. Team captains Timmy McKeown (QB), Luke Reilly (OL, DL), David Ellis (LB, RB) and Nick Karpovich (LB, RB), as well as several other players and head coach Dave Caldwell recently discussed the factors that contributed to the Bulldogs magical season. 

So what was the source of magic this season? Based on what the players and head coach Caldwell have said, the source of magic might very well be “team unity.” Karpovich noted that during this season, there was a shift from players focusing on individual success to “playing for each other.” Not only did the players start to play for each other, but they also took the time to mentor each other, which in turn created a closer bond among the players. 

Of course, the results are seen on the playing field, but the players noted that unity and togetherness start on the practice field and in the weight room. McKeown and Reilly cited the countless hours their teammates spent in the weight room, going above and beyond the regularly scheduled hours. This dedication to preparation resulted in the team’s peak physical condition as well as their resilient team bond. 

Despite some early indicators of success during the pre-season, the senior captains and Coach Caldwell did not foresee the team’s incredible success. Coach Caldwell noted, “you never think that you’re going to go 10-0, but I knew that with our senior class and the leadership and depth that we had, we had a lot of potential.”

With each game, starting with its first scrimmage against Voorhees, the Bulldogs’ confidence rose, as did their potential. Karpovich said that the early season wins “gave the team a name and identity.” In an early season game against Ewing, the Bulldogs demonstrated their tenacity and grit, storming back from a 13-point deficit to score three fourth-quarter touchdowns and secure a 21-13 win. Ellis also recalled the win against the strong Nottingham team in week 5, which the Bulldogs won 34-32, as a major indicator of the team’s potential. 

Coach Caldwell recognized that this year’s 23 seniors all contributed to the team’s leadership, which served as the foundation for the positive team environment and resulting success. The leadership and commitment of captains McKeown, Karpovich, Reilly, and Ellis were highlighted, starting with the off-season commitment that “established a culture in the weight room.” Although the team’s offensive and defensive schemes remained similar to previous years, the unity, senior leadership and ability to make mid-game adjustments, with kudos going to Coaches Vena and Kelliher, powered the Bulldogs to its double-digit victory season.

While the team captains and Coach Caldwell are proud of this season’s accomplishments, they have high hopes for next season’s Bulldogs team. This year’s seniors offered this advice to their remaining teammates: 

“Commit to the program and what the coaches are doing and trust your teammates”- Nick Karpovich 

“Take special teams seriously” – Andrew Rowan

“Build strong friendships with your teammates because that’s what makes a team”- Gael Vasquez and Derek Van Brunt

Congratulations Bulldogs, and thank you for the excitement you brought to the Hopewell community this year!