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.

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!!!!!!!

RW

Overcoming Adversity

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!

RW