Bridgewater College Football Withstands Late Hornet Rally

Late Interception Seals Opening Day Victory

Sophomore wideout Derrick Jenkins celebrates with senior wideout Chad Jones after scoring his second touchdown of the game. The Eagles defeated the Hornets of Shenandoah University 27-21.

Photo by Bridgewater Eagles Athletics

Sophomore wideout Derrick Jenkins celebrates with senior wideout Chad Jones after scoring his second touchdown of the game. The Eagles defeated the Hornets of Shenandoah University 27-21.

Dean Barker, Sport Editor

Bridgewater, Va. – Despite a 21-6 run from the Hornets of Shenandoah University, a late interception from junior linebacker Brett Tharp secured a 27-21 opening day win for the Bridgewater College football team on Saturday, Feb. 27, at Jopson Field. 

With the win, the Eagles move to 1-0, while the Hornets fall to 0-1. Despite both teams belonging to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, the game will not count towards the ODAC standings. This was BC’s fifteenth win out of their last 16 games dating back to October 27, 2018, when the Eagles defeated Shenandoah 28-20.

BC struck first with a 24-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Matt Lawton to sophomore wideout Derrick Jenkins, making the score 7-0 with 11:30 left. Junior defensive back David Agyei picked off Lawton and almost returned it for a 48-yard touchdown, but a fumble near the end zone was ruled a touchback — giving BC the ball back.

Shortly after the start of the second quarter, junior quarterback Noah Beckley rushed for a one-yard touchdown to extend the BC lead to 14-0. After three consecutive three-and-outs for the Hornet offense, Lawton and Jenkins connected once again for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 remaining. 

In six plays, the Hornets went 55 yards, and a six-yard touchdown run from junior running back Rashadeen Byrd Jr. made the score 21-7. The Eagles managed to go 40 yards in 35 seconds, but a last second 42-yard field goal attempt from senior kicker and punter Cameron Gieseman missed wide right.

BC’s defense had a stellar first half, holding Shenandoah to a mere 73 yards, compared to 267 from the hometown Eagles. The Eagles were winning the first down battle 18-3 and spent 20:20 on offense.

After a roughing-the-passer penalty from junior defensive lineman Mason Caldwell, the Eagles seemed to be on their way back to the end zone. However, a fumble from freshman offensive lineman Berk Snow gave the ball to the Hornets 40 yards from the end zone. 

Two minutes later, a six yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Zackary Mathis to junior wideout Nicholas Rauchwarg, cut the lead to 21-14 with 8:39 remaining. 

Lawton almost gave the ball back to SU with an interception from senior defensive back Daquan Pridget at his own 25 yard line, but a pass interference from senior defensive back Jared Hunt nullified the pick. After reaching the 15 yard line, the Eagles settled for a 32-yard field goal from Gieseman to make the score 24-14.

After a touchback from Gieseman, the Hornets started their drive from their own 25 yard line with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. After one first down and two incomplete passes from Mathis, it looked like the Hornets would have to punt, but a 63-yard touchdown pass to Rauchwarg cut the lead to 24-21 with 14:05 remaining in the game. 

Both teams had a three-and-out on their next possession, but a 12-yard punt from Shenandoah junior Patrick Ritchie left the door open for the Eagles. BC would kill some clock, letting 8:37 pass before a 27-yard field goal from Gieseman made the score 27-21, with just 2:28 for Shenandoah to answer.

Starting at their own 25-yard line, the Hornets managed to gain three first downs, including a sixteen yard pass from Mathis to Rauchwarg on fourth and six. At third and three, an incomplete pass was nullified by an offsides from junior linebacker Jayden Johnson, giving Shenandoah the ball at the 31 yard line. 

Mathis’s pass to sophomore wideout Ben Morely was incomplete. The Hornets tried to find senior wideout Jake Wallace for a first down, but Tharp was there for the game-clinching interception at the ten yard line. 

The Eagles never trailed Shenandoah, and were only tied for the first 3:30 of the game. BC had 372 total yards, compared to just 250 from the Hornets. Each team had six penalties, but Shenandoah accumulated 70 yards of penalties, with the Eagles totaling 41.

The game marked the first spring football game in Bridgewater College history, and the final opening day in the career of Bridgewater head coach Michael Clark. Clark also won his 165th career game, passing Emory and Henry’s Lou Wacker for the ODAC record. 

With 250 spectators, the game was a “sellout” according to the ODAC’s COVID-19 protocol, which only allows 250 fans in attendance.

The Eagles will begin ODAC competition on Friday, March 5, when they travel to Randolph Macon at 7 p.m. The game will be live streamed by Randolph Macon.