Hornets’ LB Messick continues to tackle records

Michael Messick

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s Michael Messick has heard it all his life.

Listed at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, Messick doesn’t look like the prototypical inside linebacker. Even Hornets head coach Scott Yoder jokingly says Messick is never the first player to get off the team bus, a role better suited for some of SU’s more physically imposing players.

“I’ve always been told I was too small,” Messick said Wednesday afternoon. “A couple people told me I probably would never start in college. And I started my freshman year, so that just pushed me harder to prove a point.”

Now a senior, Messick has shown he fits nowhere better than in the heart of Shenandoah’s 4-4 defense. After starting a handful of games as a freshman, Messick became an everyday starter his sophomore season upon Yoder’s arrival. Since then, Messick has been one of the Hornets’ best defenders, leading Old Dominion Athletic Conference in tackles as a junior last season while setting a new school record with 117 stops. This season, the Mechanicsville, Maryland, native leads the conference once again with 84 total tackles (44 solo).

“He’s living in a world of 290-pound linemen and fullbacks, and then he’s gotta play against wide receivers that are fast and athletic. He’s gotta play with a chip on his shoulder,” Yoder said. “And I think in a way that’s a really good thing, especially on defense just to have that attitude. And I think people look at it and say, ‘Oh he couldn’t play in this system or that system,’ but he maximizes what he’s got and he’s got great instincts and is quick, and those are things you can’t really coach. So it’s fun having him out there.”

Messick played arguably one of his greatest defensive games in Shenandoah’s 34-17 win over Catholic University of America last Saturday, as he tallied 24 total tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. Messick’s 24 tackles – which included 13 solo stops and are a new SU record – were the most recorded in a game in the ODAC since 2006, and it’s believed to be the third-best single-game performance in the history of the conference.

“I think I’m starting to realize I only have four games left. … It’s hitting me hard,” Messick said. “These years have flown by and I’m just trying to leave it all out on the field.

“I was always near the ball,” he added. “When my opportunity came to make a play, I made it. We had a few missed tackles and you know if you fly to the ball you’re gonna be around when they miss the tackle and hopefully make the tackle yourself.”

Messick’s performance netted him his first ODAC Defensive Player of the Week award, as well as his first appearance on the D3football.com Team of the Week. He also was named the HERO Sports D3 Defensive Stud of the Week.

Messick – whose Chopticon High School teammate and longtime friend Micheal Wroble is tied for second on the team with 41 tackles – is on pace for 140 tackles this season. He will graduate as Shenandoah’s all-time leading tackler and has had more games with double-digit tackles than any other Hornet in school history.

“For better or for worse I’m gonna really notice it next year because he’s not gonna be there,” Yoder said of Messick’s impact on the program. “But the maturation of the defense has kind of just … piggybacked on him knowing it. … As he’s gotten better within the system the defense has gotten better. It’s some pretty big shoes to fill and I’m gonna try not even to think about it, to be honest.”

“TRAVIE FOOTBALL”: For the second time in three games, backup quarterback Travis Barton gave Shenandoah’s offense a much-needed spark in last weekend’s win.

After starting quarterback Hayden Bauserman threw a pair of interceptions in the game’s first seven minutes, Barton – known as “Travie Football” by his teammates – came in and led back-to-back touchdown drives that helped put the Hornets up 21-10 in the first half.

Barton, who played five offensive series in the game, completed 7 of 10 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, while Bauserman went 9-for-18 for 124 yards, two touchdowns and three picks.

Yoder reiterated Wednesday afternoon that Bauserman remains SU’s starting quarterback and he doesn’t want the Hornets to turn to a two-quarterback system, although he said he’s a “big advocate” of getting Barton on the field more often, and not necessarily in a quarterback role. Yoder said Barton, who brings an added running threat to the Hornets’ quarterback position, continues to work as a slot receiver in practice.

“He’s too good of a football player not to have him out there,” Yoder said. “So I like how we’ve used him. I don’t always like why we’ve used him, because we’ve thrown some picks and we don’t want to do that, but we need to find ways to get Travis involved, whether that’s trick plays, whether that’s as a wide receiver.”

Barton has played in all six of SU’s games this season and has completed 21 of 33 passes for 239 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and his 154.5 pass-efficiency rating actually ranks second in the ODAC (Bauserman is fourth with a 129.6 rating).

Bauserman, who gave way to Barton in a similar situation in a loss to Bridgewater two weeks ago, considers Barton one of his best friends on the team and said he was one of the first to greet Barton on the sideline after his scoring drives.

“When he goes out there all I want for this team is to win, so whether he’s out there or I’m out there, whatever it takes,” Bauserman said. “But it definitely pushes me a little bit to know I need to play better, step up my game and things like that, but I’m just excited to put that week behind me and keep playing.”

INJURY REPORT: Yoder said Wednesday afternoon that sophomore kicker Jacob Newton is suffering from ligament damage in his knee, an issue that has been bothering him all season and was recently diagnosed by a doctor.

Yoder said Newton, who tried resting his leg during the bye week several weeks ago, will continue to kick extra points for the Hornets, although he added that “we’re just gonna have to see if he can kick field goals.” Newton made 12 of 14 fields goals as a freshman last season and was a second-team all-ODAC selection. He’s made just 3 of 8 field goal attempts this season and is 26-for-29 on extra points.

“He can still kick and he still wants to. We’re gonna see how it goes but that’s why he hasn’t been as effective,” Yoder said.

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