WINCHESTER – Bridgewater College football players Willie Logan, Andrew Palmer, Nick Wimer and Cassidy Burns spent their summers together in Bridgewater working out for the upcoming season.
The quartet of seniors was aiming for an Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship, a feat the Eagles have not accomplished since 2005.
Saturday night against Shenandoah that goal got a little more difficult, as the Hornets upset the Eagles 29-20 at Shentel Stadium for their first-ever ODAC win after joining the conference last season.
“It’s one thing to lose an out of conference game, but when we come into a game like this, maybe we were expecting too much like we’re going to roll them or beat them or whatever,” said Logan, who finished 27-of-50 for 276 yards. “It just didn’t happen.”
Logan, the quarterback, was under constant pressure while throwing. Shenandoah (1-3) adjusted its scheme – moving two of their defensive backs, Byron Mitchell and Sean Blackman, to linebacker positions closer to the line of scrimmage – and it worked.
Mitchell in particular was a force, finishing the game with 13 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.
“When we saw that depth chart change on Thursday, I said if they’re going to put him that close to the line of scrimmage, I think we’ve got to expect pressure from him off the outside,” BC coach Michael Clark said. “It’s one thing to have a guy assigned to [block] him, it’s another thing making sure he’s good enough to block. Tonight we weren’t.”
After Shenandoah scored on its opening possession, BC answered with a 6-yard touchdown run by Logan, which was setup by a 60-yard kick return by Jordan Hartman down to the SU 27.
The Eagles (3-1) then forced a punt and appeared to be driving for another score when Burns fumbled on a long catch-and-run. Four plays later, Hornets quarterback Justin Neff hit Devon Newton for a 14-yard touchdown, beginning a string of 23 unanswered points.
“A lot of the stuff they showed was stuff we were actually ready for, we just didn’t execute like we should’ve,” said Palmer, who finished with a team-leading 10 tackles. “They came out and got on us quick, punched us in the mouth and we tried to respond, we just couldn’t quite get it done.”
This was a BC defense that entered the game ranked No. 12 in Division III in total defense, allowing 240.3 yards per game. Shenandoah put up 330 yards on the Eagles, led by Neff’s 145 yards through the air and tailback Andrew Smith’s 89 on the ground.
“It's a game you lost and you deserve to lose,” Clark said. “It was a game you lost where you don’t change one play or make one call different and you’re a winner.”
BC’s defense gave Logan and the offense no room for error, but a combination of turnovers (four) and a failure to convert on third down (3 of 16) killed any chance for the Eagles to get in rhythm. Even when the ball bounced BC’s way – for example a blocked punt at the SU 30-yard line near the end of the first half – the offense could not turn it into points.
With the score 29-7, Logan tried to hit a closely guarded Burns on a fly route but was intercepted by Bayvon Young, the player assigned to shadow the BC star receiver.
“We did not shut him down,” Shenandoah coach Scott Yoder said of Burns. “He didn’t have one of his best stat games, but we had to know where he was every play. We made [BC] one-dimensional and we could pressure the quarterback. We made their quarterback uncomfortable and that was the best thing we did all night defensively. He could never sit back there and get in a rhythm.”
BC quarterbacks had been sacked just twice entering Saturday’s game. Yoder, who is also Shenandoah’s defensive coordinator, saw his team sack Logan six times.
“What we let happen to our quarterback cannot happen,” Clark said. “Even though you’ve got a physical, strong kid by Division III standards, that guy is too valuable to let him be hit like he was hit. The way the game went, we kind of got kicked out of character on offense and I think that’s tough. We got to ID why did that happen, and certainly for us to be successful, we can’t let it happen again.”
BC mounted a comeback, scoring on a Logan 5-yard run to cut it to 29-14 and on the ensuing possession Darrick Gore intercepted a Drew Ferguson pass and returned it for a touchdown. The snap on the extra point sailed over the holder’s head, keeping the score 29-20 and a two possession game.
“There was doubt,” said Yoder, who is in his first season as coach of the Hornets. “We’re a young team. Even the guys that are seniors, we’ve only been together for nine months. You could feel it slipping away a little bit, but all we needed to do was get a first down, and everybody calmed down, made some plays, the clock was in our favor.”
Bridgewater’s rival Hampden-Sydney comes calling next Saturday, meaning possibly the season’s toughest game will come on the heels of a surprising loss to Shenandoah.
“There’s no room for error,” Logan said. “Out of conference, even though they’re wins, and I love winning football games and I hate to lose, but out of conference if you lose one you can live with it. If you lose two you live with it. In conference, one [loss] hurts bad and two just can’t happen.”
Bridgewater 7 0 0 13 – 20
Shenandoah 12 10 7 0 – 29
SU- Smith 13 run (kick failed) 11:40
BC- Logan 6 run (DeHaven kick) 8:04
SU- Newton 14 pass from Neff (Ferguson rush failed) 4:11
SU- Frye 32 field goal, 14:21
SU- Smith 3 run (Frye kick) 10:53
SU- Miles 32 pass from Neff (Frye kick) 4:10
BC- Logan 5 run (DeHaven kick) 9:45
BC- Gore 38 interception return (kick failed) 7:30
First Downs 18 17
Rushes-Yards 28-65 40-136
Passing Yards 276 194
Total Yards 341 330
Comp-Att-Int 27-52-1 18-31-1
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 0-0
Punts 5-42.8 9-32.8
Penalties-Yards 6-58 5-25
RUSHING- Bridgewater: Wright 11-45, Logan 13-13, Wimer 2-4, Hartman 2-3. Shenandoah: Smith 22-72, Ferguson 4-34, Richardson 8-24, Neff 4-6, Wells 1-2, TEAM 1-(-2).
PASSING- Bridgewater: Logan 27-50-276-1. Shenandoah: Neff 12-22-145, Ferguson 6-9-49-1.
RECEIVING- Bridgewater: Moore 7-81, Colee 6-76, Woodard 3-22, Wimer 3-16, Lezcano 2-17, Burns 2-37, Wright 1-8, Lee 1-8, Matthews 1-6, Barr 1-7. Shenandoah: Green 4-90, Adams 3-15, Bell 3-22, Newton 2-23, Smith 2-18, Richardson 2-19, Middeljin 2-7.