WINCHESTER – In a COVID-less world, Shenandoah University’s football team would be squaring off against Randolph-Macon in its homecoming game this weekend at Shentel Stadium. Instead, those bragging rights will be won on the virtual gridiron.

In a special twist on the annual staple of football schedules across America, Shenandoah will commemorate its homecoming game by pitting one member of each school in a winner-takes-all contest in the Madden NFL video game this afternoon. Daquan Pridget, a senior defensive back, drew the lucky straw and will represent the Hornets in the game, which will be aired on SU’s Twitch channel at 1 p.m.

A tweet from SU’s official Twitter account earlier this month claimed Pridget would compete against a member of Randolph-Macon’s football program, though Pridget stated on Thursday that his opponent instead is a member of the university’s esports team. Although he’s a Madden veteran, Pridget doesn’t boast such an affiliation with SU’s own esports program.

“(I’m at) a disadvantage a little bit because he’s used to the PC and everything,” said Pridget, who typically plays on Xbox and will use a controller with the PC version of Madden for his big game.

The plan, Pridget said, is to treat the virtual game like the real thing, meaning 15-minute quarters and an intermission. Some of his teammates will be allowed in the university’s esports arena to watch Pridget compete in-person.

Trammel Anthony, who in the real world plays alongside Pridget in Shenandoah’s secondary, intends on trying to be one of those teammates present to offer his teammate support.

“I’m gonna make sure that he knows that I’m there and I’m watching and that he better not lose,” Anthony said with a laugh.

Pridget doesn’t claim to be the best Madden player on Shenandoah’s roster. That title, he said, goes to either Brant Butler or Ethan Bigbee, two receivers whom Anthony agreed are the cream of the crop when it comes to Shenandoah’s virtual footballers. Anthony, in fact, graded Pridget a seven on a one-to-10 scale.

But Pridget sounds like he knows what he’s talking about and said he’s competitive against the best SU has to offer. He’s also sharpened his stick skills this week by repeatedly challenging himself against Butler.

Pridget, who grew up in Baltimore, said he would base his choice of team today upon which squad his opponent picked, though Pridget’s go-to is typically the Ravens. He’s anticipating his opponent to bring out a heavy hitter, likely the defending Super Bowl champs.

“I don’t know if he’s a Madden player but I feel pretty sure that he’s gonna pick the Chiefs,” Pridget said, who was then asked what team scares him most in the virtual NFL.

“Honestly, I would say for me (the Chiefs are) probably the best team in Madden but it’s all about the player and if he knows how to use them. So I wouldn’t be scared, but I’d probably be a little (worried).”

Asked to make a prediction, Pridget paused for a second and then confidently claimed a victory was on its way.

“I hope he wins,” Anthony said before jogging onto the field at Shentel Stadium to join his teammates in real-life practice. “Shoot, he better win.”

– Contact Brad Fauber at bfauber@nvdaily.com