Hornets fall to Generals in season finale

WINCHESTER – To Shenandoah University football coach Scott Yoder, Saturday’s season finale against visiting Washington and Lee University accurately summarized the Hornets’ 2015 season.

SU had its chances to upset the Generals, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference’s lone unbeaten team and the 17th-ranked squad in the D3football.com poll. But the Hornets couldn’t capitalize on three first-half turnovers for Washington and Lee, the offense sputtering until a fourth-quarter surge nearly pulled SU back it in an eventual 34-21 loss in front of a crowd of 1,533 at Shentel Stadium.

“I almost feel like the game was kind of a microcosm of the season,” Yoder said after the Hornets’ fourth straight loss. “We get four takeaways but we give it up three (times). And it’s one or two play here or there that we’re not making and it’s making the difference in the game. W&L’s too good to give them that. We fought back and kind of got after it in the fourth quarter but it’s too late to play catch-up against them.”

Trailing 28-0 midway through the final quarter, Shenandoah (1-6 ODAC) finally found some life on offense, scoring three touchdowns in less than three minutes to cut the Generals’ lead to a touchdown with seven minutes to play.

The Hornets’ scoring outburst started with a nine-play, 87-yard drive that ended with Hayden Bauserman’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Qlyl Middelijn, who got behind the defense and made a leaping grab in the end zone with 9:58 to play.

A successful onside kick regained possession for the Hornets, who proceeded to go 56 yards to the end zone on six plays. Bauserman completed five straight passes to end the drive, including an 8-yard dart to Leonard Scott as Bauserman rolled right to avoid pressure before throwing back across his body.

On Washington and Lee’s next offensive play, it lost a fumble on a handoff and senior defensive end Jake Payne pounced on the ball at the Generals’ 22.

“All game, up until the fourth quarter, the entire sideline was dead and the stands were dead. And I was trying to get everyone to liven up and stuff, and then we scored and then once we started scoring that really got us going,” Payne said. “I think that was the biggest thing was that I think people were just … saying, ‘Oh, it’s another one of those games.’ But then we started scoring and we got the turnover again and everybody started getting livened up.”

The Hornets’ offense turned the short field into another touchdown as Bauserman – who completed 21 of 35 passes for 244 yards, three touchdowns – hit tight end Garrett Rohrbaugh in the flat for a 4-yard touchdown pass that pulled SU to within 28-21 with 7:20 to play.

But Washington and Lee’s option offense put together a final game-clinching touchdown drive, an 88-yard march that ended with Duncan Maxwell’s 26-yard scoring run that put the Generals up 34-21 with 1:48 to play. The drive was extended by a successful fourth-and-1 conversion from W&L’s 48-yard line, as running back Marshall Hollerith plunged up the middle for a 2-yard gain.

“I wasn’t hesitating there,” Generals coach Scott Abell said of the fourth-down call.

“We knew they were gonna go for it on fourth down,” Payne said. “They hadn’t had a negative play on dive, I don’t think, all day. I don’t know that they had a dive that went for less than 3 yards. … They were just driving right up the middle on us.”

Washington and Lee (10-0, 7-0), which boasts the best rushing offense in Division III, churned out 455 of its 483 yards on the ground against the Hornets. Hollerith led the way with 23 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns, while slotbacks Maxwell (two touchdowns) and Walker Brand rushed for 101 and 88 yards, respectively.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Sgro – filling in for injured starter Charlie Nelson (concussion) – and slotback Connor Chess rushed for 71 yards each.

“If you look at that game, when we played well on drives we were able to slow them down on first down,” Yoder said. “When they were able to establish the fullback and then the quarterback would pull it, they’re gonna have your head spinning.”

Washington and Lee’s first five offensive possessions of the game reached Shenandoah territory, although the Generals didn’t find the end zone until their fourth drive, when Maxwell scored on a 20-yard scamper with 10:59 left in the second quarter.

W&L’s game-opening drive reached Shenandoah’s 3-yard line before Hornets linebacker Micheal Wroble forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Michael Messick. SU gave the ball right back as running back Cedrick Delaney lost a fumble on a promising drive into Generals territory.

Another Generals drive ended when Hornets safety Cedrick Bridges upended Chess to force another fumble, and Bridges – who also finished with a team-high 16 tackles – halted a third W&L drive deep into SU territory when he made a leaping, juggling interception at the Hornets’ 2 midway through the second quarter.

SU again gave the ball right back two plays later when Bauserman’s second-down pass was picked, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Hollerith that put the Generals up 14-0 with 5:49 left in the first half.

Bauserman also threw an interception on his previous pass on a drive that reached Washington and Lee’s 18.

“That’s what we did all year,” Yoder said. “There’s four teams, I think, in the ODAC that are minus in turnovers and none of them have winning records, and we’re one of them. We didn’t take the ball away enough defensively, we didn’t stop people and we turned the ball over. … You can’t win doing that.”

SU finished with 411 yards of offense. Delaney had 24 carries for 120 yards and another 54 yards receiving, although he left the game midway through the third quarter with what Yoder called a “lower leg” injury.

“I talked to him a little bit on the sidelines and he was pretty dejected and stuff, but that’s all I know,” Yoder said when asked of the extent of Delaney’s injury.

Saturday’s loss solidified the third straight 4-6 season for SU, marking the second straight year the Hornets have lost four straight games to end the season.

“To start out 3-0 and finish the way we did was disappointing,” Yoder said. “I think it was a season of missed opportunities. I really do. And we’ve gotta go back and look at it and reevaluate everything – how we coach, how we practice, how we approach the offseason – because we had opportunities every weekend and we left a lot of plays out there. Until we mature and make those plays there’s gonna be disappointment.”

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