White’s interceptions lead Hornets past Ferrum

By Jim Laise – sports@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER-It’s one thing to swipe your first two pass thefts of your freshman season. It is even more than that if they happen to be the only picks that Shenandoah has gathered this season.

But the striking thing about freshman Josh White’s interceptions is that they came against his old team and helped the Hornets win. In a striking bit of circumstances, the White interceptions and the 90 yards he tacked on them came against Ferrum, a team he was on this time a year ago.

“He was on our team as a freshman. He was a member of the scout team. He was just here [fall] semester. He said he was going to transfer to Virginia — to Charlottesville, I believe,” said Ferrum coach Dave Harper, after he watched the Hornets trounce the Panthers 45-20.

The victory improved Shenandoah’s record to 2-1, while Ferrum fell to 0-2. For SU, it’s the first time since 2003 — and only the second time in history — that the club has finished the non-conference portion of the season with a winning record.

The reason fell partially in the hands of White, a 5-foot-8, 145-pound product of Richmond’s Highland Springs.

“I didn’t have the grades at first that I needed [for Shenandoah], so I started out at Ferrum,” White said. “But, I made a 3.5 [GPA] my first semester [spring of ’14] and came out with a 2.8 overall.”

“We knew about him, said Shenandoah coach Scott Yoder. “We had recruited him.”

Ferrum quarterback Tim Reynolds knew about his former teammate, too.

“I told my teammates that he’d put the ball up,” said White. “I saw him after the game and he said, ‘I gave you two of them.'”

Whether Reynolds, a senior, “gave” the ball to White or not is open to conjecture.

“Those weren’t easy balls to catch,” said Yoder. “That first one particularly was an athletic play. Not just anybody can do that. We have a number of young players we’re going to look at. You can’t keep a man who made two interceptions off the field.”

Indeed, Shenandoah did not want to, alternating White with regulars David Wilburn and Henry Howell.

The Hornets, who ran 93 plays for 552 yards of offense, led 31-20 with 5:28 showing in the fourth quarter. They earlier led 31-13 at the 2:36 mark in the third.

With the ball near midfield, Ferrum quarterback Reynolds put a pass up for grabs and White was there to intercept it. He raced to the Panther 27.

After three straight Shenandoah running plays, quarterback Drew Ferguson kept it himself for a 16-yard touchdown sprint. Jacob Newton — who was 6-for-6 on point-afters and added a 23-yard field — kicked his fifth PAT of the night. The score was 38-20 with 8:21 left in the game.

On Ferrum’s next series, White became only the second Hornet in history — and the first since 2011-to make two or more picks.

“I just read my keys and made a play,” said the young corner.

Then, on second-and-goal from the Panther 4, Ferguson found tight end Miles Green all alone in the end zone for a 45-20 lead with 7:27 remaining.

White’s plays were obviously among the most important made by the defense on a night when the offense had its way with the visitors on the ground.

Ferguson was one of four Hornets who rushed for 70 yards or more on this night. Cedrick Delaney led all ball carriers, rushing 22 times for 130 yards. Then came Ferguson’s nine chances for 112; DaLaun Richardson (16-98) and Kye Hopkins (18-70).

In all, the Hornets totaled 420 yards on the turf.

“They didn’t have that many plays, but what they ran, they ran well. It was a matter of them executing and I think their pace played on our guys,” said Harper.

“I don’t know if there is a tell-tale thing that tells you they are getting tired or not. I did notice some confusion, so maybe our pace caught them off guard,” said Ferguson.

“I think tonight, for the first time, we all seemed to play as one on the offensive line. Our coaches have been coaching us and coaching us about pace, and it paid off tonight. Nobody is as conditioned as we are. And I think that showed tonight,” said Shenandoah lineman Ivan Ayala.

Coach Yoder was looking for his second straight victory over Ferrum after last year’s 43-29 rout, so he must have been elated when the Hornets exploded to a 7-0 lead on the Hornets’ first offensive series.

Shenandoah made one of its two fourth-down conversions on the drive which went to the 1. Hopkins capped the nine-play, 45-yard push with a 1-yard blast to help the Hornets go ahead 7-0 with 10:21 showing in the first quarter.

The Hornets, who turned over the Panthers twice and held them to 360 yards of total offense, snuffed out two straight downs as Ferrum moved to the Shenandoah 26.

Defensive end Jake Payne, whose eight total tackles were the team’s second-high behind Michael Messick (10), batted a ball down. Then, Reynolds had to jump high to fetch a shot-gun snap and was swamped to end the possession.

Shenandoah also scored on its first possession of the second quarter. SU began just inside Ferrum territory when Yoder had Delaney carry the ball five straight times for 30 yards, which resulted in a first down on the Panther 19.

“It’s like we knew what they were going to do with the ball, we just couldn’t stop them. They did pretty much what they wanted,” said Harper.

On third down, Ferguson found sophomore DeShon Brown; for the 5-8, 155 pounder, the 16-yard reception was the first of his two TD catches to make it 14-0 with 11:09 left in the second quarter.

Then the teams went back and forth. Ferrum answered with a 5-yard TD throw from Reynolds to Troy Helton to cut SU’s lead to 14-7 with eight minutes showing in the half. Key plays on the eight-play, 82-yard drive include a check-down pass to Dominique Lesine, which went for 27 yards, and a 21-yard throw to Chris Guy open in the middle of the secondary.

But Shenandoah was not to be outdone. Rather than blitzkrieg through a series of the plays, this time the Hornets used some clock. They went nine plays for 75 yards on a drive that culminated with a Ferguson-to-Brown 4-yard scoring sortie. Newton was good for a 21-7 lead with 4:29 showing in the half.

Ferguson scrambled for 19 yards and found freshman Levi Hardy resting in a hole in the Ferrum zone defense for another 18-yard gain along the way.

Richardson thought he had a touchdown earlier, but several holding penalties moved the ball back to the 20. Again, Ferguson bailed out the Hornets by passing to 20 yards to Qlyl Middelijan, which gave the Hornets third-and-goal on the 4.

“We’re going back and look at every penalty and see what we did wrong. You can’t argue about them. There were some I disagreed with and others I agreed with; but the thing is, you just have to play. We’re going to go back and see how we’re coaching on each one,” said Yoder.

In fact, an argument could be made that Shenandoah made the game closer because of the 13 infractions in which they were penalized for 131 yards. After the first two games, the Hornets had been whistled for 14 penalties.

Trailing by 14, Ferrum fought back on its next possession. The Panthers received good field position at their own 48 after a Shenandoah holding call.

On second down, Reynolds dumped a pass to Helton who made a man miss and sprinted 21 yards to the Shenandoah 28. Later, Reynolds went to Chris Guy who picked up 14 yards to the 4.

Reynolds carried it in from there for the touchdown to cut the lead to 21-13 with 2:24 showing before half.

Just like the first two quarters, Shenandoah scored to open the third quarter. Delaney broke two tackles on an 11-yard excursion into the end zone for a 28-13 lead, after a six-play, 68-yard drive in which they made four first downs.

“I try just to concentrate on the next play,” said Ferguson. “I don’t think about a drive or what it might mean. My job is to just get the other 10 guys in a position to run a play.”

Leading 31-13, the Hornets were looking for the knock-out punch, and thought they might have gotten it when SU forced the Panthers into third-and four at Shenandoah’s 39.

Reynolds boot-legged and then found Helton for a 26-yard toss to the 13. Lesine bolted over for the touchdown to cut the Shenandoah lead to 31-20 with 5:28 showing in the third.

The Panthers could have cut further into the Hornet advantage when Richardson dropped the ball on the turf and it was recovered by Ferrum at the Panther 15.

But neither team could muster a score until White made the first of two fourth-quarter interceptions.

Shenandoah had a brief scare late when punter Christian Arias lost 12 yards on a bad snap with 2:34 showing, but Ferrum could do nothing with it.

“It’s nice we’re 2-1 and that we finished the non-conference part of our schedule with two out of three wins, but we can’t stop here. We’ve got to keep moving,” Yoder said.