Hornets hope to build on recent success

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University’s football team got back on track last Saturday with an impressive 47-31 win over previously unbeaten Guilford College at Shentel Stadium. Now the Hornets have to figure out how to carry that success into this weekend’s road game at Catholic University.

The Hornets so far have fallen into the same pattern that they did last season, when they were unable to maintain momentum from one game to the next.

Shenandoah senior linebacker Sean Blackman said last Saturday’s win over Guilford was as much a product of the Hornets’ mental approach as anything else, and keeping that focus could be critical to SU’s success over its final five games.

“There isn’t an easy game on our schedule,” Blackman said Wednesday. “Every game is important. Every game is big. I think if we keep that mindset, that’s going to keep us motivated and give us that extra oomph to push us towards getting that win and executing and being the better team on the field.”

The Hornets have yet to win consecutive games under head coach Scott Yoder, who took over the program last year, and haven’t accomplished the feat since the 2011 season.

SU has proven it can play with the best competition in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Last season, the Hornets earned an upset victory over eventual conference champ Hampden-Sydney on the road, and last Saturday’s win came over a Guilford team that featured the ODAC’s best offense and No. 2-ranked scoring defense.

But for Shenandoah to take the next step as a program, it will need to figure out a formula for stringing together success.

“We need to find a way to do that,” Yoder said, “and what we’re trying to do as a staff is not make it about ‘hey, we’ve got to win two games in a row,’ but what do we need to do? How do we need to prepare? How do we need to practice every week to give yourself a chance to do that? Then it just kind of feeds on itself if we can get that across to our guys.”

That has so far eluded the Hornets, which could also be a testament to the parity of the ODAC as a whole.

“Everybody’s good and you have to prepare, and the difference between winning and losing is so razor thin. And people don’t understand that,” Yoder said. “Look at Guilford’s situation. They probably thought they were the more talented team, and I think they’re talented enough to win the ODAC. I do. Just a couple plays here or there and we’re up 22-0 just like that. It can happen any week.”

EXTRA SPECIAL TEAMS: In the week following Shenandoah’s 27-23 loss to Bridgewater on Oct. 4, Yoder said the Hornets had to be better on special teams. Right on cue, the same facet of the game that sank SU against the Eagles provided the spark for the win over Guilford.

Seconds into last Saturday’s game, the Hornets held an 8-0 lead over the Quakers after freshman Dieon DuPont took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. That jolt powered Shenandoah to a 22-0 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes.

“We had an opportunity to make a play and Dieon, to house the opening kickoff, I think [SU quarterback Drew Ferguson] said it, that was kind of the punctuation that woke us up and said this is going to be our day and we’re going to find a way no matter what they throw at us,” Yoder said.

DuPont’s return TD began what would be a solid day for the Hornets special teams unit, which looked good even when it was bad. Following the game-opening score, a bad snap on the extra-point attempt forced holder David Bell to retreat more than 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage to retrieve the football. From there, Bell scrambled to his left and lowered his shoulder on a Guilford defender before crossing the goal line for the two-point conversion.

Though SU did miss another extra point in the win, freshman kicker Jacob Newton was 2-for-2 in field goal attempts, including a 44-yarder into the wind in the second quarter that answered a pair of Guilford scoring drives.

Newton is a perfect 7-for-7 in field goals this season.

INJURY UPDATE: Shenandoah junior wide receiver Brandon Adams likely will miss his sixth straight game this weekend, according to Yoder.

Adams suffered a lower leg contusion in a preseason scrimmage against Gettysburg and has yet to dress out for a game this fall.

“He was out there [Tuesday] running routes about three-quarter speed,” Yoder said. “I don’t see him playing this week. He has not been in pads yet. He is making progress but it is slower than we had hoped.”

Sophomore running back Dalaun Richardson (leg) was also listed on SU’s injury report earlier this week, but Yoder said Wednesday that Richardson was fine. Part of Shenandoah’s three-man running back rotation, Richardson has rushed for 160 yards on 33 carries this season.

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