Hornets hope for success after win

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football team has won back-to-back games just once since the 2011 season. Never have the Hornets opened a season with two straight victories.

Shenandoah is trying to shake that trend Saturday when it travels to Ferrum a week after the Hornets’ 51-6 drubbing of Gallaudet this past weekend.

The Hornets’ season-opening performance, which saw the offense put up the second-most points in the program’s history while the defense limited the Bison to 220 total yards of offense, was a great opening act for Shenandoah in 2015, but the Hornets aren’t dwelling on the success.

“Last year we did the same thing,” senior inside linebacker Michael Messick said Wednesday, “and our momentum into the next game hurt us. I mean, we were like, ‘Alright, we’re good now, we don’t have to try,’ and we got beat by Frostburg. So this week we’re working on not getting big heads. This is another week. It’s 0-0. That’s behind us.”

Although head coach Scott Yoder said he liked what he saw from the Hornets’ on offense, defense and special teams last Saturday night, the head coach noted that Shenandoah’s quick lead – it was 14-0 midway through the first quarter – put the Hornets in a position where it avoided any high pressure situations and lessened the magnitude of their mistakes, which included several dropped passes that could’ve extended drives.

“When it’s a one-score game you can’t drop footballs, you can’t make some of the mistakes that we made,” Yoder said.

In seeking Shenandoah’s first 2-0 start, Yoder said the emphasis in practice this week has been on preparation and executing the plays the Hornets need to make, instead of pushing the idea that “we’ve got to go 2-0 just for the sake of going 2-0.”

Yoder added that Shenandoah’s experience could help lead to more consistency this fall.

“There have been more signs already that our team’s more mature than they have been, certainly from two years ago and even last year,” Yoder said. “You’ve got some leaders now that understand, that have been with us long enough, that say hey, we need to go down there on a business trip and play well and everything else will take care of itself.”

Tackling the record book: Messick continues to put his name atop the defensive record book at Shenandoah. With his 13-tackle performance against Gallaudet, Messick passed Josh Rogers for sole possession of first place in career double-digit tackle games (13).

“It feels pretty good,” said Messick, who wasn’t aware he broke the record until Wednesday afternoon, “but I plan on doing that a lot this year.

“I realize I ain’t got much longer to play, so I just leave it all out on the field,” he added. “Don’t hold anything back.”

Last season, Messick broke the school’s single-season tackle record when he tallied 117 total stops, including 70 solo tackles. Messick is also tied with teammate Micheal Wroble for most tackles in a single game (19).

“The easiest way to put it is, and I tell him this, when we’re playing well on defense, he has a great game,” said Yoder, who also serves as SU’s defensive coordinator. “And it doesn’t mean that it’s his fault when he’s not playing well, but when we’re playing up to our best he is sideline to sideline, getting off blocks, in on tackles, causing disruption.”

Back in action: Shenandoah’s offense, which churned out 407 total yards and 243 yards rushing against Gallaudet, will get a key piece back for the Ferrum game this weekend.

Senior offensive tackle Forestt McDaniel, who was suspended for the opener for violating team rules, will make his first start of 2015, bringing the Hornets’ offensive line to full strength.

McDaniel, one of three returning starters on the offensive line, will take his traditional spot at left tackle on Saturday, allowing Dustin Edwards – a 2014 all-Old Dominion Athletic Conference second-team pick – to move back to center.

Shenandoah started two freshmen linemen (Caleb Hutson and Austin Goins) last week, a situation that had the Hornets coaching staff feeling “nervous,” Yoder said, although the head coach was pleased with what he saw from Shenandoah’s young linemen against Gallaudet.

“Now to bring Forestt back in the mix and now be able to have some more veteran leadership around the younger guys is just going to make us better,” Yoder said.

Junior receiver Qlyl Middelijn – SU’s leading receiver in 2014 – and junior defensive back Bayvon Young will remain out for this weekend’s contest as both complete two-game suspensions for violating team rules.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com