BRIDGEWATER – With a big matchup at Hampden-Sydney next week, the Bridgewater College football team is trying to keep its focus on the now.
The undefeated Eagles open Old Dominion Athletic Conference play against 1-2 Shenandoah at 7 p.m. today in Winchester.
Both teams come in off a bye week after challenging Week 3 games. Bridgewater (3-0) held off a Ferrum comeback attempt in the second half to win 51-28, and the Hornets lost to Christopher Newport, which is ranked No. 22 by d3football.com.
In fact, Shenandoah’s two losses came against teams that have yet to lose a game (Gallaudet and CNU).
“It’s always been a good game for us in terms of a little bit of a rival game and with them coming into the conference,” BC football coach Michael Clark said. “Them being the opening game in our conference has just kind of added to it.”
BC is 12-1 all-time against Shenandoah.
The Hornets have a new face on the sidelines this season, as Scott Yoder takes over for Paul Barnes, who was released from his position after going 41-70 over 11 seasons. Yoder is the third coach of the Hornets after they restarted the program in 2000.
Yoder is also the defensive coordinator of the Hornets, commanding a defense that Clark called one of the better units in the ODAC last season, even though Shenandoah finished with a 1-9 record.
“I think the challenge that particularly their defensive front gives people… we’ve got to crank it up to play them,” Clark said. “They’ve got a secondary that really has some playmakers. Their safety [Byron Mitchell] is really one of the better players in the league. We’ve gotten them the last two years, but it’s been one of those games where points and yardage are hard to come by.”
Although the Eagles have beaten the Hornets the last four seasons, the wins have come by an average of six points or less. Last season’s game was decided in the fourth quarter on a field goal for a three-point BC win. The Hornets held BC to 55 rushing yards and the Eagles had trouble blocking SU defensive end Evan Griffin (two sacks).
“We can play a lot of guys, we’ve got experience, we’ve got talent and that’s our deepest, most talented position,” Yoder said of SU’s defensive line. “That’s kind of what we try and hang our hat on.”
The Hornets run a 4-4 defensive scheme and plan on moving Mitchell, a three-year starter at safety, and Sean Blackman, an All-ODAC pick at cornerback last season, to outside linebacker this week.
In a game that figures to be close, Yoder wants to start fast tonight.
“We need to start fast and play consistently, and if we can do that both sides of the ball, I think we’ll have a chance to win Saturday night,” he said.