EMORY — Bridgewater College football coach Michael Clark had a long chat with Emory & Henry coach Curt Newsome two years ago.
“Our teams were reeling at the time and it seemed like we were both trying to find ways to lose, but I had a group of kids that wanted to stay and help us fix things. And by the end of last year, I had a pretty good team,” Clark said.
That development process continued Saturday as the No. 25 Eagles thumped the E&H Wasps 35-3 before a crowd of 4,894 at Fred Selfe Stadium.
Bridgewater (8-0, 6-0) will host Randolph-Macon (7-1, 6-0) next Saturday in a showdown for first place in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. For the first time since their 2001 march to the Division III national title game, the Eagles have won 12 straight games dating back to last season.
“I’m just so proud at how far we’ve come, especially in this age of free agency where things always look better at the next spot,” Clark said. “I’ll always be grateful for what these kids have done for me and my staff.”
E&H (5-3, 4-2) entered Saturday on a five-game win streak and hopes for their first ODAC football title since 2000.
Behind their triple-stack defense and efficient offense, the Eagles ended the suspense by taking a 21-0 lead at the 13:47 mark of the second quarter.
After BC scored on a blocked point in the first quarter, senior quarterback Jay Scroggins took advantage of an E&H blitz to connect with Devonte Smith for a 49-yard scoring connection.
Scroggins completed 16 of his 30 throws for 236 yards and three touchdowns while scrambling for 26 yards. Smith caught five passes for 138 yards.
The Bridgewater defense allowed just 190 total yards against an E&H team that had been averaging 41 points and 429 yards via its run-pass option attack.
Six-foot-five senior linebacker Gary Ramey Jr. (seven tackles) and 2018 ODAC Defensive Player of the Year Re’Shaun Myers excelled again Saturday in the funky BC defensive alignment.
Randolph-Macon, Clemson and E&H also employ versions of the triple-stack.
“You’re going to see more teams use that formation because it’s a spread and RPO formation beater,” Newsome said. “Bridgewater lives and dies with it.”
Clark said the Eagles began experimenting last season due to a shortage of defensive linemen. With innovative coordinator Rob Everett calling the shots, BC gradually morphed into the triple-stack.
“I think the novelty of the formation helped us last year because teams only had four days to prepare for it,” Clark said. “Now that people have had the chance to study what we’re doing, it’s really become more about personnel. And we’ve got a handful of hybrid players.”
The Wasps were thumped 53-13 at Bridgewater last season. Newsome described that loss as perhaps the worst overall performance during his six-year tenure in Emory.
Saturday’s rematch was just as lopsided, as the Wasps managed just 58 yards rushing.
“When we can’t run the football in our offense, we struggle,” Newsome said. “We played well enough on defense. We just didn’t move the ball against their defense. That was the difference.”
The E&H tandem of quarterback Hunter Taylor and 6-6 senior receiver Derrick Yates keyed the Wasps the past five weeks. But there was no magic Saturday.
Facing double coverage, Yates was held to four catches for 53 yards. Taylor completed 8 of 19 throws for 90 yards before being forced out with nine minutes left in the third quarter due to a shoulder injury.
“Things just kind of snowballed from there, but we weren’t moving the ball with Hunter in the game” Newsome said.
On the first play following Taylor’s injury, Myers forced freshman quarterback Ander Sloan to fumble. Moments later, the Eagles grabbed a 28-3 advantage on a 23-yard TD pass from Scroggins to Smith
“The loss of Taylor was big,” Clark said. “That kid was kind of stirring the drink for Emory this season.”
E&H called on redshirt freshman linebacker and former Virginia High School League record-setting running back Grayson Overstreet to run the offense for several series. With Myers (5-11, 237) roaming the field for stops and pops, the Wasps continued to sputter.
“(Myers) was the best defensive player in the league last year, and he made a lot of plays again today,” Newsome said.
Everett left the Eagles after last season to join head coach Mike Singletary on the Memphis Express franchise in the ill-fated Alliance of American Football. BC still has a group of those hybrid athletes who have shown the ability to rush the quarterback, flow down the field on pass coverage, and stop the run.
The Eagles have not allowed more than 200 total yards against four straight foes and rank among the national Division III leaders with just 12 points allowed per game.
“We spend a lot of time preparing to stop the run and make teams one-dimensional. We executed that plan today,” Myers said.
The path to stardom has been not been easy for Myers.
He broke his ankle in the opening game of his junior season at Dan River High School, then was sidelined by a broken foot in game five of his senior season.
After accepting a walk-on offer at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, Myers found his niche after taking the Bridgewater route.
Clark said that Myers compares favorably to former BC All-American linebacker Jermaine Taylor.
“And Jermaine hung around the NFL for three years,” Clark said. “Re’Shaun might not be as fast as Jermaine, but he’s the closest thing I’ve had since.”