Redemption!

Greetings From The Booth.

As a fellow once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The Shenandoah Hornets experienced those two extremes in the span of a week, only in reverse. SU Football went from the depths of a crushing last-second defeat at Ferrum 2 weeks ago to the absolute elation of their own improbable walk-off victory this past Saturday, a 9-7 home win against D-2 Emory and Henry.

Oh, me of little faith. Full confession–in the week leading up to Saturday’s contest, I did not see how the Hornets could emotionally get up off the canvas after the gut punch by the Panthers and beat a team that averaged 41 points a game and gave up only 20. The Wasps’ only 2 losses were by one and three points, respectively. In other words, they were four points from being an undefeated team. Only one team, Randolph-Macon, had held E&H to under 32 points. The Wasps also boasted an 1100-yard running back in Devotae Jordan, so the task was formidable, even under normal circumstances.

But, as I drove to Shentel Saturday, I started to feel better about things. The Hornets have been a mature, resilient bunch this season, and according to Head Coach Scott Yoder, were coming off a good week of practice. If somehow, Shenandoah could hang in early, maybe, just maybe…

SU certainly did that, and more. Despite an early Wasp touchdown, the Hornet defense came to play. Jordan got his yards (168), but never really broke off a big run. In arguably one of the best defensive efforts in program history, Shenandoah held E&H to 172 yards and 34 points below their season average. Linebacker Ben Burgan led the effort with a 16-tackle performance, one that earned him ODAC Defensive Player Of The Week and a place on the D3 Football Team Of The Week.

But the real story of the game is one of redemption. The Hornets scored what looked like the game-tying touchdown in the third quarter, but kicker Patrick Ritchie pushed the extra point wide left and Shenandoah still trailed 7-6.

Folks, in 22 seasons of SU football, I’ve seen this movie too many times. Bad things have followed the Hornets over the years. Just ask my long time broadcast partner Scott Musa–we’ve seen it all. Close, but no cigar. But on this day, karma was with Shenandoah, as Ritchie got a second chance, and nailed a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give his team the win, a kick that would have been good from 50. The celebration that followed was not only about the moment, but a release of the pent-up frustration and disappointment of the previous week. The win was not only redemption for Ritchie, but for the team, and the program, which deserved to have something go their way.

We were long overdue…

On to Randolph-Macon, with a 12:30 air time Saturday on the River 95-3, when we’ll be in The Booth at Day Field. Until then…GO HORNETS!

RW

Getting The Job Done

Greetings from The Booth!

Don’t look now, but Shenandoah University Football is 4-1, and 2-1 in the ODAC, after a decisive 52-25 blowout at Guilford this past Saturday in Greensboro. If my broadcast partner Scott Musa is reading this, he will be happy to know that yours truly and my current sidekick DeShon Foxx (Scott is focusing on becoming a new Dad these days) kept a Hornet broadcast travel tradition alive with our usual stop at Mac N Bob’s in Salem on the way to North Carolina, and on the way home we enjoyed some Italian cuisine at Frank’s Pizza And Subs, where the calzone is the size of a starship. In between, the accommodations were first-class at the Sheraton Four Seasons. This play-by-play life is pretty good!

The trip was made all the better with a nice win by the Hornets in what was the classic “trap game.” The Quakers have had their challenges this season, having 2 games canceled due to COVID protocols, and doing the eye-test, SU was clearly the better team. That being said, Shenandoah was coming off an emotional Homecoming win against Bridgewater, and very well could have suffered a letdown.

But they didn’t. In their most prolific offensive output of the year, SU rolled to a 24-0 lead and never looked back. The Hornets piled up nearly 600 yards on the afternoon, and except for a very brief nervous stretch in the third period, dominated from wire-to-wire. Freshman quarterback Steven Hugney continues to impress as he matures, and was named ODAC Offensive Player Of The Week following his 5 TD performance (4 passing, 1 rushing). Rashadeen Byrd showed that he is one of the top backs in the ODAC with a 143-yard rushing day, and Wide Receiver Brandt Butler–oh, nothing. Just 5 catches for 143 yards and 2 scores. To put it simply, the Hornets took a business trip, and took care of business.

This week promises to be a little tougher, as SU heads back in the same direction on I-81 and US 220 to try and spoil the Homecoming Day of Ferrum. The Panthers will be a “tough out” for Shenandoah, and like SU, are 4-1 overall, their only loss to league power Randolph-Macon. Ferrum’s stats aren’t gaudy (they give up 25 points a game, while scoring about 24 per game) and all of their wins have been tight contests. As always, the Panthers have athletes who are capable of having big days, like dual threat quarterback Titus Jones. Jones should be a major focus of the Hornet defense this week.

I would expect nothing less than a very close contest this week in the hinterland of Virginia. The Homecoming atmosphere will be something that SU will have to deal with, and as with any even matchup on paper, turnovers will play a big part in determining a winner on Saturday. The second half of the season gets much tougher for Shenandoah, with W&L and Randolph-Macon, along with D-2 Emory & Henry looming on the schedule. So, Shenandoah cannot afford to take it’s eye off the ball this week, and I don’t think they will. In a tight contest, SU comes out on top 28-24 to go 5-1 and 3-1 and stay in the ODAC hunt.

Air time is 12:30 Saturday with the Winchester Printers Hornet Pre-Game Show. Enjoy the game, and GO HORNETS!

RW

Sports Dogs Podcast: State Of The Hornets With Scott Musa

In the latest edition of the SDPC, we talk Shenandoah University with SU Assistant AD and Hornet Football Color Analyst Scott Musa, including a big Homecoming weekend on-campus. GO HORNETS! RW

The Name Game

Winchester Printers
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Greetings From the Booth!

Don’t look now, but area high school football is just over a week away and a week later, a full-fledged Fall season of Shenandoah University begins (knock on wood), as the Hornets entertain Methodist on September 4th. Hopefully the Delta variant of the coronavirus won’t trip us up.

In addition to working once again on SU football broadcasts with my longtime broadcast partner Scott Musa, this season I will also be sharing the Booth with DeShon Foxx. Foxx is the Assistant AD for Student Success, Inclusion, and Equity at Shenandoah, and also played football for the University of Connecticut. Upon his graduation from UConn, DeShon spent a couple of years in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets. I look forward to his unique perspective as we bring you Hornet football this Fall!

Well, according to multiple sources (NBC Sports Washington and The Washington Post), the Washington Football Team has narrowed it’s list of potential team nicknames to 3. If you follow “Making The Brand” on the team’s website and YouTube channel, you’ll see WFT president Jason Wright tell head coach Ron Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew that 3 possibilities remain. This was confirmed by the above 2 sources and reported by Yahoo Sports.

For those who long for a return to the past, the former team name is not one of the 3 finalists. There are many who want to keep the Washington Football Team name, saying it has a cool “European football” feel to it. For me, one who writes a sports report for on-air and the website each morning, it’s clunky, and I’ve often (mistakenly) juxtaposed the F and the T when using the abbreviation. OK, sometimes not mistakenly…

I do hope the team decides to hold on to some of it’s past by keeping the burgundy and gold colors. I’ve not heard anything that would suggest otherwise. That would make for a seamless transition from past-to present-to future. As a longtime fan, I’m not ready for a radical color scheme change.

For me, I would like to see a name that does give fans a link to the past in a way that honors Native American culture. Ever since the subject of the name change reared it’s head several years ago, I’ve though that Warriors would be a great team name. I’m sure someone could tell me what’s wrong with that idea, but in my humble opinion, “Warriors” conjures up images of honor, strength, and pride. Again, I’m not ready for radical change. And I don’t like “generic,” unless it refers to paying less at the store for the same product.

Ultimately, no matter what name is chosen for the DC NFL football franchise, being successful on the field will soothe most fans who don’t like it.

As the late Al Davis famously said, “just win Baby!”

Until the next visit from the Booth, Go (fill in the blank)! GO HORNETS!

RW

SU Update With Scott Musa

In our latest SDPC, we touch base with Shenandoah University Associate Athletic Director Scott Musa for a “State of SU Athletics” update, and chat about some Hornet programs we don’t often talk about: Golf and Tennis to name a few. Of course, we catch up on the SU Baseball dynasty. And Scott weighs in on the groundbreaking football news at Shenandoah…

RW

Spring Football Recap

SU field oversight
SU field oversight
Winchester Printers
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Greetings From The Booth!

In this edition of VFB, I wanted to look back on the recently completed so-called “2020” Shenandoah University football season, which was played in the Spring of 2021, and project what it means heading toward the Fall.

Let me get this out of the way. No offense to anyone at BC, but I’ve seen enough of Bridgewater for a while. Playing a team 3 times in 5 games is almost unprecedented, but that’s how it goes in the Crazy World of COVID. Because W&L shut it’s Spring football season down, a hole was created in the beginning of the season, which the Eagles filled with a “non-conference” game. In addition to the regularly-scheduled matchup, the teams played Round III last Saturday in the so-called ODAC Championship Weekend, a game won by BC 22-14. If familiarity breeds contempt, SU and Bridgewater are now tired of each other.

As for the season, on the surface you’ll see a record of 1-4. Looking closer, one could make the case that it could have easily gone the other way and been 4-1. The Hornets lost a close opener to BC 27-21. In that game SU fell behind 21-0 early but then dominated the rest of the way, and simply ran out of time. In their only non-competitive game of the season, the Hornets were blanked by Hampden-Sydney 26-0, followed by a 52-38 loss to Randolph-Macon. In that contest, Shenandoah actually led 31-30, so with a few breaks, who knows? Then, a 19-18 win against BC, followed by last week’s 22-14 defeat against the Eagles.

Regardless of the record, this Spring was an investment in the upcoming Fall season. As my broadcast partner and Hornet Associate AD Scott Musa said in Saturday’s postgame show, the season was a win. A nice foundation has now been laid for a full 10-game season starting in September. Quarterbacks Zack Mathis and Chris Sonnenberg both got considerable playing time this Spring in game conditions. A number of Hornet wide receivers contributed, and that will only provide dividends later this year (and beyond). And so on and so forth. All of those Spring “reps” will be put into the bank, and draw interest.

And we won’t have long to collect. Unlike most end-of-seasons when we say “wait until next year,” the 2021 campaign begins on September 4th, just 5 months away, with a home contest against Methodist. There is much to be excited about from “the good guys in red.” Can’t wait!

Until next time from The Booth…GO HORNETS!

RW

State of SU Athletics

After a week hiatus, the Sports Dogs Podcast is back! With warmer temperatures comes some optimism as the Shenandoah University Hornets transition into the Spring sports season, which includes…football! Here to talk about all that’s going on with SU Athletics, including a capsule of the Hornet football team, is Associate AD Scott Musa. Enjoy the podcast, and GO HORNETS!

This Week In SU Football: Receivers, Special Teams, and Coaches

In this week’s Sports Dogs Podcast, it’s the finale of our series “This Week In Shenandoah University Football,” I’m joined again by Scott Musa, Associate AD at SU, as we look back at some memorable wide receivers, special teams players, and the 3 head coaches in program history. It’s our final trip in the Hornet time machine, so buckle in and enjoy the memories!

RW

Sports Dogs Podcast: Navigating The Covid Waters At SU

In this week’s Sports Dogs Podcast, we join up with Associate AD at Shenandoah University, Scott Musa. Some good news came recently that sports will resume soon at SU with Hornet Basketball returning January 23rd. Although the COVID landscape changes almost daily, it looks like the Hornets have successfully navigated the choppy waters of 2020. Scott talks about that process, as well as the daily challenges of coaches, players, and administrators in this trying year.

Enjoy, and GO HORNETS! RW