Hornets get lesson in adversity in opener

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University’s football team had to overcome more than just the Gallaudet Bison this past weekend.

Severe storms in the Washington, D.C. area Saturday night forced the postponement of the Hornets’ season opener until Sunday afternoon. The Hornets were forced to travel back to Winchester Saturday night before departing for Gallaudet again early Sunday morning for the 2 p.m. contest. But SU didn’t seem to miss a beat.

The Hornets rolled to a 20-0 win — their first shutout under second-year head coach Scott Yoder — and made a strong statement to open the 2014 season.

“I think our kids handled it really well,” Yoder said Wednesday. “We were mature enough. We stayed focused and didn’t get overly excited about the changes. It’s the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve dominated a game.”

Shenandoah’s struggles with inconsistency last season are well documented, and Yoder said the circumstances Sunday would’ve provided plenty of excuses for the Hornets — still a growing program under Yoder — had they not played well against Gallaudet.

Yoder said the Hornets’ coaching staff is hoping SU’s players look at Sunday’s result as a confirmation of what can happen if the Hornets are prepared mentally, and several players agreed that the win just reinforced the confidence that has been building all offseason.

“We’re not the same program that we used to be,” senior defensive end Ian Griffin said. “We expected this because we worked our butts off in camp. Every day was hard. This was one of the hardest camps I’ve ever had here in my four years. You were just physically and mentally drained. You expect the hard work to pay off.”

This weekend’s postponement has also pushed Shenandoah back a day in terms of weekly game preparation. The Hornets generally watch game film and do some weight lifting on Sundays, but were obviously unable to this weekend having just played Gallaudet.

Yoder said the Hornets were given their usual day off on Monday and had a longer session that usual on Tuesday in order to get all of the necessary film study in.

Several players shrugged off the notion that slight shift in the schedule will have any great impact this week, and Shenandoah is approaching practice as business as usual as it prepares to carry Sunday’s momentum into this Saturday’s home opener against Frostburg State.

BALANCING ACT: Shenandoah’s offense had planned to use a three-man rotation at running back between Cedrick Delaney, Kye Hopkins and Dalaun Richardson in the opener, and the Hornets did exactly that against Gallaudet.

The trio split carries very evenly in the victory, with Delaney carrying nine times for 47 yards, Hopkins seven times for 44 yards and Richardson eight times for 34 yards.

“I’ll put like this — nobody was really complaining about not getting the ball,” said Hopkins, who scored both of Shenandoah’s touchdowns on Sunday with a pair of 1-yard runs. “I think [offensive coordinator Stan] Hodgin did a good job of spreading the ball around.”

Yoder said it’s unrealistic to expect that type of balance to continue throughout the season, as the coaching staff will “ride who’s hot and who’s producing,” but he credited the play of SU’s offensive line for allowing the Hornets to comfortably switch their running backs in and out on Sunday.

“Our backs are very good, and Cedrick, Dalaun and Kye all bring something special to the table, but that thing was won up front,” Yoder said. “The fact that we were balanced with the stats was the fact that we were controlling the game and we could get the flow of guys in the way we wanted to. That’s not always going to happen, so tip of the hat to the guys up front because they won us that game.”

Shenandoah rushed for 196 yards while the defense held Gallaudet’s triple option to just 69 rushing yards on 53 carries (1.3 yards per carry).

INJURY REPORT: Senior linebacker Sean Blackman and junior wide receiver Brandon Adams will not play this weekend against Frostburg State while both battle leg injuries.

Blackman, the Hornets’ starting outside linebacker, suffered a high ankle sprain on the second play from scrimmage in Sunday’s game against Gallaudet.

“He’s made really good progress. He went from being on the crutches to walking on his own in only a couple days,” said Yoder, who said the injury occurred during a legal cut block on Blackman. “I need to be slow with him. He’s too good of a player to try to bring him back 70 percent.”

Adams, who started all 10 games for SU last season, continues to remain out of the lineup after suffering what Yoder said was a leg contusion that resulted in “a lot” of swelling in his calf during Shenandoah’s preseason scrimmage against Gettysburg two weeks ago. Adams did not suit up for the Hornets in the season opener.

Yoder said the current worst-case scenario for SU is that they don’t get both guys back until the ODAC opener against Bridgewater on Oct. 4, but he didn’t rule out a possible return for both players next weekend against Ferrum.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com