2021 SU Football Recap: We Didn’t Want It To End

Greetings From The Booth!

Before we get to the main topic, just a reminder that this week (11/15-20) is The River 95-3’s annual Camping For Hunger Food Drive, a week when the Front Royal/Warren County community (and beyond) comes together to help fill up our Camping For Hunger bus and feed the area’s hungry. We send out the challenge to all of you who read this blog post every week to step up and do your part. This year is especially challenging, with food shortages and supply chain issues plaguing all of us, including our neighbors in need. You can find out all about CFH 13 on this very website. Thank you all in advance!

The Shenandoah Hornets wrapped up their 2021 Fall football season last week by upsetting ODAC Champ Washington & Lee 14-6 at Shentel Stadium. With the win, the Hornets finished at 7-3, their best season since 2003, when they were 8-2. I remember well the bittersweet feeling that year when the final gun sounded. It was a season unconsummated by a post-season appearance, even though the Hornets were deemed USA South Co-Champions and the players received rings.

I had much the same feeling Saturday. There was elation after the huge win, but an empty feeling because the season was over. There was no championship, no post-season, but there was a feeling of great accomplishment. Every season is different and memorable in it’s own way, but I will hold the Fall 2021 SU campaign near and dear. It was a season full of heart stopping finishes, resilience, maturity, and a year when the Hornets took that “next step.” That victory over W&L was our championship game.

Before the season began I asked Shenandoah Head Coach Scott Yoder what it would take for the team to get to the next tier, beyond the 5-5 and 6-4 level. He simply said “we have to win the close ones.” And that’s what the Hornets did. They opened with a 28-23 win against Methodist, a game that wasn’t decided until the end, with a Shenandoah red zone stop. Along the way was a week-2 comeback win on the road at NC Wesleyan. Speaking of comeback’s, the Hornet climb from 24-0 down to beat Bridgewater at home was one for the ages. And, in one of the best defensive efforts in program history, who will forget the 9-7 last-second win over D-II Emory & Henry, a team that averaged 41 points a game?

There was heartbreak, too. The one we’d love to have back is the soul-crushing 24-23 loss at Ferrum, which ended on a PI call against the Hornets, followed by a Panther’s field goal with 3 seconds left. The difference between 7-3 and 8-2. SU showed an ability all season to rebound from a tough loss like that. The Hornets never lost 2 in a row all year. That has a lot to do with the 21 seniors and grad students on the team. They were the heart, soul, and backbone of a team that exceeded expectations and hopefully laid the groundwork for 2022 and beyond.

It ended too soon…

Until next time, so long from The Booth, and GO HORNETS!

RW

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

Sports Dogs Podcast: Talkin’ SU Football With Coach Yoder

In this week’s SDPC, it’s a conversation with Shenandoah University Head Football Coach Scott Yoder, who covers a variety of topics, including the heartbreaking loss to Ferrum, how the players have responded to it, the ups and downs of a freshman QB, and a look ahead to the Hornets’ next opponent, D-2 Emory & Henry.

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!

RW

Hornet Buzz: Coach Yoder Breaks Down NCW Win And Looks Ahead To HSC

Randy Woodward chats with Head Hornet Scott Yoder, who looks back at the 30-21 win at NC Wesleyan, and looks ahead to the ODAC football opener this Saturday at Hampden-Sydney. Don’t forget to listen to the play-by-play on The River 95-3, starting at 12:30 with the Winchester Printers Hornet Pre Game Show.