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Greetings from The Booth!
First things first. It was great getting back in The Booth this past weekend as the Shenandoah University Hornet football team played it’s first Fall game since 2019 when they entertained former USA South rival Methodist. We’ll talk about that game later in the blog, but I was completely thrown off-guard as Saturday’s broadcast began, when my broadcast partner Scott Musa and public address announcer (and part-owner of WZRV) Mike O’Dell interrupted my carefully prepared opening to present me with a beautiful piece of crystal commemorating 200 Hornet football broadcasts, a milestone that I reached in the Spring season. The idea to do this was the brainchild of The River 95-3 owner, Andrew Shearer, and it completely caught me off guard. I couldn’t have been more surprised, and pleasantly so. Doing play-by-play for SU has been a labor of love for over 20 years, and it is always nice to be recognized by the folks who sign your paycheck. Thank you Andrew, Mike, Kathy, my teammates at The River 95-3, and at Shenandoah University.
Enough mushy stuff. The Hornets opened with a hard-fought 28-23 win over the Monarchs, as we welcomed almost 1800 back to Shentel Stadium. The Hornets did not beat the “Sisters Of the Poor.” Methodist was picked to finish third in the USA South in the pre-season coaches poll and were coming off an appearance in the conference title game in the Spring.
Hornet head coach Scott Yoder told me that the key to the Hornets taking that next step to the upper echelon of the ODAC is winning close games, and this contest was certainly one of those games. In so many ways, this win is better than a 53-0 opening win over a cupcake. After falling behind 14-0, SU clawed back, then had to hang on at the end, with the Monarchs at the Hornet 3-yard line. Shenandoah overcame adversity and found a way to win against a good team. That’s what 7-3, 8-2 teams do.
OK, here are my game balls and observations from Saturday’s win:
Hornet WR Ethan Bigbee. He was one of several seniors who stepped up with 5 catches for 176 yards, including 3 TDs. His performance earned him his first-ever ODAC Offensive Player Of The Week honor. On his game-winning 38-yard scoring grab, Bigbee left various unmentionable athletic garments of his defender strewn on the Sprint Field turf.
QB Zack Mathis. The senior signal-caller was ready when called on to replace struggling Freshman Steven Hugney. He could have sulked on the bench after not getting the start, but instead came on to throw for 229 yards and the 3 TDs to Bigbee. Mathis was the spark the Hornets needed after falling behind by 2 scores.
The Hornet Defense. That unit collectively bent but didn’t break, only giving up 7 points in the game’s final 45 minutes. The SU “D” made several key 4th down stops, including the aforementioned stop at the Hornet 3 yard line on the game’s final drive. That unit also overcame a targeting call on that drive. They could have folded but did not.
Special Teams Coach Kalvin Oliver. The Hornet Special Teams were big contributors to Saturday’s win, with 3 successful fake punts resulting in first downs. The first conversion did not result in points but was a big momentum changer in the game. Kudos to Oliver, the former SU player, who had ice water in his veins Saturday.
Next up for Shenandoah, a trip to Rocky Mount, NC, for a matchup with the Battling Bishops. This is a game the Hornets should win, but Wesleyan is always athletic if not disciplined. And it’s usually 100 degrees in the shade in rocky mount this time of year. A letdown will mean a long ride back to Winchester late Saturday afternoon. We’ll talk to you starting at 11:30 with the Hornet Pre-Game Show preceding the 12 noon kickoff.
Until the next visit from the Booth…GO HORNETS!