Hornets hoping to right the ship against Apprentice

Shenandoah University linebacker Kyle Dexter (34) trips up Bridgewater quarterback Jay Scroggins during a football game on Oct. 14 in Winchester. The Hornets host Apprentice School in non-conference action at 1 p.m. Saturday. Photo courtesy of Shenandoah University

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football team stumbled in Old Dominion Athletic Conference play for the first time this season last weekend, and now the Hornets get a chance to correct themselves without the added pressure of league play.

SU takes a rare late-October break from ODAC competition on today as it hosts Apprentice School in a 1 p.m. contest at Shentel Stadium. Given that the Hornets are coming off their sloppiest performance of the season in last week’s 45-20 loss at Guilford, a home game without conference implications could be just what Shenandoah needs.

“I think we’re pretty excited to kind of step out of conference,” Hornets junior quarterback Hayden Bauserman said Wednesday. “Coming off the loss last week, we get a chance to play a game that doesn’t matter in the conference standings. Obviously it still matters to our record, it still matters to us, it’s still an important game, but kind of a game we can step out of, correct some things that we did wrong last week and kind of go back out and find our identity again, and just correct the ship before we play those last two games that are gonna be really important toward the conference standings.”

Shenandoah (5-2) and Apprentice (1-6) haven’t met on the football field in 50 years, but head coach Scott Yoder said SU has a pretty good handle on what type of team the Builders have because they’ve played three other ODAC schools this season. Apprentice, which has lost six straight games since winning its opener, has fallen to Bridgewater (52-0), Hampden-Sydney (58-28) and Randolph-Macon (63-14).

Despite that poor track record against ODAC schools, Yoder said Apprentice isn’t a team to be taken lightly, noting that the Builders trailed Macon just 14-7 late in the first half of last week’s contest.

“We’ve gotta prove to ourselves that we can right the ship … and that (the loss to Guilford) was just a blip on the radar screen and not something bigger in our program,” Yoder said. “Our guys have taken that challenge and we realize that how we respond to what happened (last) Saturday is probably gonna define our season.”

Shenandoah’s offense in particular is hoping to see better luck this week after four interceptions and two turnovers on downs inside the Guilford 15-yard line contributed to one of that unit’s worst statistical outputs of the season.

Apprentice’s defense, which runs a 3-3 stack, according to Yoder, is allowing 46.1 points and 460.1 yards per game and could be ripe for the picking for a Hornet offense that is averaging 41 ppg and ranks second in NCAA Division III in passing (410.4 ypg).

“They’re gonna come out ready to play and we know that if we go out and lay an egg like we did last week, they’re certainly a team that’s capable of beating us,” said Bauserman, who leads Division III in passing yards (2,821) and passing touchdowns (31). “But we know that we’ve just gotta focus on us, and that’s kind of been the big message this week is focusing on what we do, getting back to what we know we’re capable of doing and focusing on ourselves this week.”

Offensively for Apprentice, junior Terrence Sudberry (50.8 completion percentage, 392 passing yards, four touchdowns, five interceptions) has emerged as the Builders’ starting quarterback after Brendan O’Neil held the job early in the season. The Builders are averaging only 18.6 points per game.

Yoder said Shenandoah’s defense, which is allowing 455.7 ypg and 236.3 yards on the ground, has to be most concerned with Apprentice running backs Ethan Bryce (118 carries, 508 yards, four touchdowns) and Brandon Jones (384 yards, three TDs).

“As long those guys don’t have, ‘Oh my goodness,’ All-American-type days, I think we’re gonna be OK,” Yoder said. “But if we think we’re just gonna walk in and show up because their record is not good and ours is a little bit better, we’re gonna be in for a long day because they’ve got some athletes.”

After Saturday’s game the Hornets, who lead by a half-game in the ODAC race, close out the regular season with a road game at Hampden-Sydney and a home matchup with Washington and Lee.