Hornets aim to buck trend against Cards

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — Rarely do teams at any level spend too much time focusing on anything but the present, but Shenandoah University football coach Scott Yoder dug into the past a little bit this week in preparation for the Hornets’ road game at the Catholic University of America this afternoon.

The Cardinals have owned the last two meetings with Shenandoah, beating the Hornets during that span by a combined score of 71-14, a statistic Yoder made sure his players were aware of earlier this week.

The Hornets will have a chance to bury its past history against Catholic in today’s 1 p.m. kickoff at Cardinal Field in Washington, D.C.

“Whatever our guys think or whatever they look at the film or what people are telling them that this game is about, this game is about a team that has beaten us up in two years. And if that doesn’t motivate us, I need to quickly find what does,” Yoder said Wednesday. “Last year … they beat us up, they took our lunch money and they laughed at us. And they were the better team. They were more prepared. They were more physical. We had no answers defensively. They ran four plays and they ripped us. So what we’re trying to do there is just get our guys’ attention.”

Although Catholic has had plenty of success against Shenandoah in the past (the Cardinals are 8-2 all time against SU), the Cardinals have gotten off to a slow start in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference this fall. Catholic is 2-3 overall and dropped its first two conference games of the year in blowout fashion to preseason frontrunners Hampden-Sydney and Randolph-Macon.

“They haven’t as successful a season as they did last year but that’s not going to be something that we’re really paying attention to,” Hornets senior linebacker Sean Blackman said. “If I was Catholic I would be feeling good about this game because the last few years [they’ve] dominated [us] on both sides of the field.”

The Cardinals rolled over Shenandoah in last season’s meeting, piling up 326 rushing yards on 63 carries in the 37-7 rout.

The Hornets (3-2, 1-1 ODAC) have been much improved on defense this season, as they are first in the conference in scoring defense (19.6 points per game) and second in total defense (324.6 yards per game) despite allowing 521 yards to high-powered Guilford in last weekend’s win.

Blackman said he expects Catholic to run right at Shenandoah’s defense, which is also leading the ODAC in rushing yards allowed per game (113.2). The Cardinals rarely deviated from that smash-mouth style last season against the Hornets.

“They ran three specific running plays and I know they’re going to go back to that against us,” Blackman said. “They’re going to try to attack the middle like they did last year. They’re going to be doing a lot of play-action pass trying to get our linebackers to bite up on the run and get little quick passes in.”

Sophomore running back Matt Perno leads Catholic’s rushing attack with 392 yards and five touchdowns on 71 carries.

Junior quarterback T.J. Tutone, who was part of the Cardinals’ two-man rotation at the position last season, is also a threat in the running game. Tutone, now the Cardinals’ lone signal caller, has rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns this season while also completing 105 of 185 passes for 1,102 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“He’s a good athlete and I know right now what’s probably holding Catholic back is they’re turning the football over,” said Yoder, whose defense forced three interceptions and eight sacks against Guilford. “Those are tough to overcome. But he’s a good athlete. He can throw it. He can run it. This type of offense gives our type of defense fits, which means the quarterback can run, they’re going to try to establish run and they’re going to hit play-action passes and hurt your linebackers and put your linebackers in spots where … that linebacker can’t be right.”

Blackman said the Hornets will also need to account for sophomore tight end Lucas Morley, who has 18 catches for 212 yards and four touchdowns and will often line up as a wide receiver on the outside.

Offensively, Shenandoah will look to keep its effective rushing attack going against a Cardinals defense that is statistically the worst unit in the ODAC.

The Hornets are second in the conference in rushing yards per game (271), while Catholic’s defense is allowing an ODAC-worst 37.4 points and 426 yards per contest.

Sophomore Cedrick Delaney leads Shenandoah’s rushing attack with 81 carries for 551 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Kye Hopkins has rushed for 316 yards and six touchdowns, and senior quarterback Drew Ferguson has rushed for 273 yards and a score while also passing for 616 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

Yoder said the Hornets are preparing to see some things from Catholic’s defense that the Cardinals have yet to show this season, particularly some stunts and twists along the defensive line that caused Shenandoah problems in last year’s game between the two schools.

“We have to basically to get them to go out of the odd [front], make them change their defense so we can work it to our receivers,” said Delaney, who has topped 100 yards rushing in each of the last four games.

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