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One For The Ages
Greetings from The Booth!
The Booth was rockin’ this past Saturday as the Shenandoah Hornets shocked rival Bridgewater in one of the greatest games I’ve had the pleasure to call in my 22 seasons of SU Football. In case you missed it, the Hornets came from 24-0 down to win 34-27 in the biggest comeback in program history. Until Saturday night, Shenandoah’s biggest comeback was a 19-point hole against Hampden-Sydney on the road, and the first signature win for Head Coach Scott Yoder.
I don’t know why, but this felt different. Maybe because it was Homecoming. Maybe it because the win came against a rival, a team that for the first 9 years of the Hornet football program, had our number and looked at us like a stepchild. And, yes, you can now call this series a rivalry. The 2 schools are an hour apart on I-81, recruit the same geographic areas, and there is local flavor on both teams. Not to mention, the record is 4-4 in the last 8 games of the series.
As for the game itself, SU kept battling, kept fighting, and clawed it’s way back into the contest. Freshman QB Steven Hugney turned to his senior receivers, and they made big plays. You could see the confidence level of Hugney (and the team) growing as the game went on. The Hornet defense decided as a unit that BC wasn’t going to score again after the Eagles built their 24-0 lead (after the second quarter, all Bridgewater could muster was a 47-yard field goal from Sherando product Jackson Hendren) and came up with 2 key interceptions down the stretch. And let’s not forget the running of Rashadeen Byrd, Jr., who pounded out 109 yards, including 2 big touchdown runs.
The identity of the Hornets is starting to emerge as a team that finds a way to overcome adversity. A lesser team would be 0-4 at this point, but SU won games against Methodist and NC Wesleyan that easily could have gone the other way. Instead of saying, “maybe it’s just not our day,” this Shenandoah team plays until the clock reads 0:00. Win or lose, there’s something to be said about that.
OK, here are my game balls for the Bridgewater game:
Steven Hugney: the aforementioned freshman went the distance at QB for the first time, and brought back memories of Hornet great Hayden Bauserman in his freshman year, with 3 TD passes and 287 yards passing. As mentioned, Hugney gained confidence as the game went on, and made decisive throws to his trusted wideouts. Hugney grew up on Saturday night.
Brant Butler: His game-winning one-handed catch will be talked about a long time at SU. That grab was one of many big plays throughout the evening from a senior that stepped up and said to his young quarterback, “I’m here for ya’.” The graduate student’s 8-catch, 177 yard night earned him ODAC Player Of The Week, and DC Touchdown Club honors. And a VFB Game Ball!
The Fans: I’ve never heard Shentel louder than it was on Saturday night. Simply put, the 3-thousand (mostly) red-clad Hornet fans would not let the team lose. The players fed off of the energy of the crowd, and showed their thanks after the game by saluting them with a team pose in front of the home stands. . I don’t think anyone on the SU side wanted to leave after the game. I know I didn’t. Well done Hornet fans! You were the fuel that powered the engine.
Now it’s on to Guilford…I think. The Quakers have had a challenging year, and have already postponed or canceled 2 games, including last week’s contest against Apprentice, due to team COVID issues. Should there be a game Saturday in Greensboro, the Hornets will certainly be favored, and will need to avoid a letdown. One could certainly understand a hard landing after the high of Saturday night’s incredible win. Coaches will preach this cautionary message all week, but often times it does no good. The L-word just happens sometimes.
Because of the uncertainty of the game itself and the letdown factor, I think this game will be closer than it should be. The Quakers just missed upsetting Hampen-Sydney a few weeks ago, and if SU isn’t careful, they could fall victim to Guilford Saturday. still, if the game is played, I think the Hornets will do enough to get the job done, and improve to 4-1 (2-1). Final: SU 27, Guilford 21.
Listen for updates this week on The River 95-3, and as of right now, we’ll be on the air at 11:30 am from North Carolina. Until then…GO HORNETS!
A Return to Their Roots
Greetings from The Booth!
Don’t look now, but the Shenandoah Hornets football team is 2-0 after a 30-21 win this past Saturday at North Carolina Wesleyan. All in all, a great road trip, punctuated by a couple of rib-eyes, a fine hotel, a Saturday morning workout on the treadmill, and a Hornet victory. Of note is the unique perspective we had Saturday as we called the action on the radio. The temporary facility at NCW had no broadcast booth, so under a 2-man tent in the stands (thank you Sydney Anderson!) we called the game surrounded by lots of friendly Shenandoah fans who made the 4-plus hour drive to Rocky Mount. There were some technical challenges, but it was great to be among the crowd celebrating an SU win.
The game itself was a trip back in time as the Hornets racked up 223 rushing yards, and consumed 12 minutes of the 4th quarter clock in wearing down the Bishops’ defense. 132 of those rushing yards were gained by Rashadeen Byrd, Jr., who was a Clydesdale on Saturday. On a warm day, Byrd got better as the game wore on. In the bend, he got his reward, a short TD run on his final carry of the afternoon. An added dimension was the running of freshman QB Steven Hugney, which gave the Wesleyan defense one extra thing to think about.
Eventually, Hugney was spelled by senior signal-caller Zack Mathis, who connected with another senior, Brant butler for the play of the game, a 33-yard strike on third-and-11 that effectively iced the game. And while we’re talking about seniors, mention must be made of defensive end Mason Caldwell, whose 9 tackles and 2 sacks earned him D-3 Team Of The Week honors. The unsung hero was Patrick Ritchie, who booted 3 field goals, the final one giving the Hornets the lead for good. All in all, gutsy team win.
This week it’s on to Hampden-Sydney, as the ODAC season gets underway. The Tigers are 0-2, but in reality, everyone starts 0-0 again, and with one less league game on the slate this year, this is a big game. Starting 0-1 in the ODAC is not insurmountable, but 1-0 is a lot better. The Tigers feature the passing combo of senior quarterback Tanner Bernard to senior receiver Dillon Costello, who will test a Shenandoah secondary that picked off 4 passes last weekend.
I think it’ll be vitally important to jump out to a lead this week on the road. The Hornets have been a resilient team so far, having to come from behind in each of it’s first 2 games. The formula this week will be to get out in front on the scoreboard, run the football, and defensively, make Bernard uncomfortable.
The Hornets have spoiled a few Homecomings and Hall Of Fame Weekends over the years, and I think they’ll do the same this weekend, making our postgame meal at Macados in Farmville that much tastier. Final: Hornets 27 Tigers 23.
Listen to the 12:30 Saturday broadcast on the River 95-3, and until the next visit, GO HORNETS!!!!!!!