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

Thank You Seniors!

Greetings from The Booth!

I did a little double duty Saturday at Shenandoah as we now have a little football-basketball overlap for a couple of weeks. First, the football. The Hornets assured themselves of a winning record with a 35-16 win over Apprentice in a game that went as expected and was a microcosm of the Builders’ season. Apprentice, as they had done most of the season, hung in with their opposition, but costly mistakes at the absolute wrong time did them in. Don’t get me wrong, SU played well, rolling up 474 total yards and led 21-0 , but then seemed to lose interest for a while, before pulling away. At 6-3, the Hornets now have a chance to finish 7-3 if they can beat ODAC Champs Washington & Lee on Saturday at home. More on that in a bit.

After the football game, which I think might be still going on, I made the short walk across the Buzzy Plaza to the Wilkins Center to do the public address duties for SU Women’s Basketball. The ladies were impressive in their 2021-22 season debut, routing Goucher 75-43, with 13 of the 14 Hornets who played scoring at least one point. In addition to a very deep bench, SU boasts one of the most exciting players in the ODAC in senior Sierra St. Cyr, who led the “good gals in white” with 13 points. Please get out to a game or two and cheer them on this season.

Back to football. With the ODAC title wrapped up, one would think that W&L might take it easy Saturday and focus on their NCAA tournament game the following week. My broadcast partner, DeShon Foxx, who was once the passing game coordinator for the Lexington school, assures me that will not be the case. The Generals want the outright title, and with a loss to SU Saturday combined with a Randolph-Macon win against Hampden-Sydney in “The Game,” both W&L and RMC would finish with identical 5-1 ODAC records. The Generals would still be the league representative in the NCAA, but would be called “co-champs.”

To win Saturday, the Hornets will have to stop the Generals’ running attack, led by Josh Breece, who is finally a senior. It seems like the talented running back from Lorton, Va., has been at W&L for 10 years, and it will be a tough order to stop him. Still, W&L has looked human this year, and if not for a last second miracle against HSC and a comeback win at home last week against Ferrum, the Generals would be watching Randolph-Macon celebrate a league championship. The Hornets probably need to play just a little better than they did against the Builders, but there’s every reason to think they can beat W&L if they bring their “A” game to Shentel on Senior Day.

Senior Day will be an emotional one for a number of Hornets who will put the uniform on for the last time. Bonds have been formed on the gridiron that will last well beyond football for these SU seniors, who will move on to the game of life once the clock reads zero late Saturday afternoon. The task at hand will be to keep the emotions at bay during the game, and focus on beating the Generals. A win for Shenandoah would mean a 7-3 season, the best since the NCAA playoff year of 2004. What a way to say goodbye!

Don’t forget to catch the buzz Saturday starting at 12:30 with the Hornet pre-game show. Until then, thank you seniors and…GO HORNETS!

RW

Getting Hit With A Measuring Stick

Greetings from The Booth!

The visitors booth at Day Field in Ashland, Va., was not a fun place to be this past Saturday. The Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets used a familiar formula in soundly beating the Shenandoah Hornets 45-14 on Family Weekend at RMC. We’ve seen it all too many times: a ball control offense that possessed the football for over 44 minutes, an efficient passing game (on the rare occasions the Jackets threw the ball) featuring the tight end, and a dominating defense that completely shut down the Hornets. Simply, SU ran into a lemon and black buzzsaw.

No element of football is independent from another. Case in point, the Hornets offense never got anything going on Saturday. Thus, the defense was constantly on the field and eventually worn down by the constant pounding of the Yellow Jackets. Even when the Hornets were hanging in early, thanks to some special teams mistakes by RMC, there was never a feeling that Shenandoah was going to pull the upset, as they did the week before against D-2 Emory & Henry.

Sometimes the best lessons, albeit painful ones, come out of defeats like the one at RMC. The Hornets were riding high after their win against E&H , and rightfully so. But the Jackets showed Shenandoah what the upper echelon of the ODAC looks like. The Yellow Jackets are perennial contenders who have won 3 of the last 5 league titles. They are near the top in the nation in several categories, and they don’t beat themselves. And when they have you down, they don’t let up, usually. If not for a last-second Hail Mary by Washington & Lee, RMC would be undefeated. In short, SU got hit with a measuring stick last weekend, and it left a mark.

For the Hornets, it’s time to move on, because there are still some things to be accomplished. With a win this Saturday against Apprentice, Shenandoah would secure a winning season. And with a win against the Builders followed by a home win in the finale against W&L, the Hornets would finish at 7-3, their best season since the NCAA Playoff year of 2004. This is significant, because 7-3 is that next rung on the ladder that separates you from the middle of the pack, and puts you closer to the the league’s elites.

This season, that’s not quite close enough.

Catch the Winchester Printers Pre-Game Show from at 12:30 Saturday, followed by kickoff at 1. Until our next visit from the Booth…GO HORNETS!

RW

Remembering Walter Barr

In our latest SDPC, I am joined by Scott Musa of Shenandoah University, as we share memories of the late area coaching legend Walter Barr, who started the football program at SU, and touched so many lives in our area. RIP, Coach!

RW

Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast
Remembering Walter Barr
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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