Hornets hoping to see rewards in opener with Gallaudet

WINCHESTER – After an offseason spent finding ways to develop a consistent winning formula to break a streak of three straight 4-6 seasons, Shenandoah University will kick off its 2016 football season this weekend.

The Hornets open with Gallaudet for the fourth straight season when the two teams kick off at 7 p.m. tonight at Hotchkiss Field in Washington, D.C., and SU is seeking a payoff after a grueling few weeks of preseason practice.

“After that brutal, hot camp we kind of just (want to) get rewarded a little bit and try to come out of the capital with a W,” senior inside linebacker Micheal Wroble said Wednesday.

Shenandoah, which opened its 2015 season with a 51-6 win over Gallaudet to begin a program-best 3-0 start, owns a 4-1 mark against the Bison in five career meetings. The Hornets have won the last two meetings by a combined score of 71-6 and haven’t allowed more than six points in each of their four wins over Gallaudet.

Gallaudet, two seasons removed from its first and only NCAA Division III playoff appearance in 2013, is coming off a winless season a year ago and is a combined 2-16 over the last two seasons.

Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said he expects the Bison – who unveiled a more balanced playbook last season to little success (they averaged just 8.7 points, 156.2 total yards and 46.1 rushing yards per game in 2015) – to return to the flexbone triple-option that has traditionally marked coach Chuck Goldstein’s Gallaudet teams, a “gut feeling” Yoder based on the rearranging of some coaching assignments that has Goldstein reassuming offensive play-calling responsibilities in 2016.

Yoder said the Hornets, who were surprised by Gallaudet’s 31 pass attempts in their matchup last fall, have placed all their focus on defending the option this week.

“If we’ve gotta make adjustments on the fly we will, and our kids have been great at it,” said Yoder, whose defense limited Gallaudet to 220 yards last season.

Taking the snaps for Gallaudet on Saturday will likely be 5-foot-9, 170-pound sophomore Antoine McKinney, who played some quarterback against the Hornets two years ago. Last season McKinney was listed as a wide receiver and attempted just one pass.

Sophomore fullback Kahan Louissaint returns to the Bison after leading the team in rushing (93 carries, 265 yards, one touchdown), as do Gallaudet’s top two receivers from 2015 in sophomores Dylan Mento (39 receptions, 336 yards, 2 TDs) and Lawrence Watson (25 catches, 244 yards, 2 TDs).

Gallaudet has three sophomores and two freshmen listed as starters on the offensive line.

“Their most experienced position is wide receiver, which I don’t know what that says in the offense that (they) run,” Yoder said. “I know they’re not gonna make a living in their offense throwing it a ton, but they usually throw for big plays.”

Yoder expressed concern about the Hornets’ inexperience at one of the inside linebacker positions and how that would translate against a run-heavy, triple-option attack, but SU should benefit from the return of two three starting linebackers and a veteran secondary.

Offensively, SU will debut four new offensive linemen but returns plenty of talent and experience at the skill positions, including sophomore quarterback Hayden Bauserman, senior running back Cedrick Delaney and junior receivers Leonard Scott and Michael Ashwell.

The Hornets are expecting to see Gallaudet in a 4-2-5 base defense this season (the Bison played a 3-3 in years past), a scheme SU sees regularly from fellow Old Dominion Athletic Conference schools.

Gallaudet’s defense allowed 41.4 points per game last season, and Shenandoah’s 51 points against the Bison in 2015 were the second-most in school history.

“It all depends on us at the end of the day,” Delaney said. “If we do what we know how to do and do it going 110 percent and excel and execute the plays right, I feel like it’s not gonna be hard for us to move the ball. That’s what we have to do, go into the game with that mindset, basically.”

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