Shenandoah Stumps Eagles with Late Touchdown

Extra point woes doom Bridgewater on Senior Night

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  • Bridgewater football seniors gather before their Senior Night game on Friday, March 26.

  • Bridgewater head coach Michael Clark waves to the crowd before his final home game for the Eagles.

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Dean Barker, Sports Editor

Bridgewater, Va. – On Friday, March 26, Bridgewater football fell 19-18 to the Shenandoah Hornets on a last minute touchdown from senior wideout Brant Butler. In losing the regular season finale, the Eagles finished at 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the ODAC. The game was the final home game for Bridgewater head coach Michael Clark, who is retiring at the end of this season.

The Hornets gained their first and only win of the regular season to finish 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the ODAC. They also avenged a 27-21 loss to BC from Opening Day. 

Bridgewater’s Achilles heel was extra points, as the Eagles did not convert a single point-after attempt all night. Senior kicker Nathan Chaput was injured on a missed extra point in the third quarter and did not return. A first quarter extra point kick by SU junior punter Patrick Ritchie proved to be a game winner, as it was the only successful extra point attempt of the game.

Senior quarterback Matt Lawton had three touchdowns, running for two and passing one to freshman tight end Kyle Beck, in his final game at Jopson Field. Lawton threw for 202 yards, but was outdone by Hornets sophomore QB Chris Sonnenburg, who threw for 261 yards, although Sonnenburg had two interceptions. Junior running back Rashadeen Byrd Jr. ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns for the Hornets. SU junior wideout Nicholas Rauchwarg had 131 receiving yards.

Shenandoah pounced first, ending an 85-yard drive in 5:23 with a 2-yard touchdown from Byrd Jr. to go up 7-0. The Hornets almost scored again at the beginning of the second quarter, but a fumble at the 2 yard line was recovered by freshman defensive tackle Elijah Rucker. 

With less than three minutes left, sophomore wideout Braeden Whitlock tried a trick pass from the Bridgewater 43-yard line, but it was picked off by junior defensive back Isiah Williams at the 8-yard line. The Eagles got three quick first downs, but Lawton was intercepted by junior linebacker Ben Burgan, who ran it to the Hornets 28-yard line. SU ran out the clock, with the score at halftime being 7-0 Shenandoah.

The Hornets had 179 total yards in the first half, compared to just 131 from Bridgewater. Shenandoah held the ball for 17:15 in the first half, giving BC only 12:45 on offense.

Bridgewater sophomore punter Garrett Graves punted a ball to the 25-yard line with 11:50 left, but freshman wideout Yuri Smaltz bobbled the ball to sophomore long snapper Blake Ashley at the SU 25-yard line. However, two penalties doomed the promising drive, leading to a three-and-out. SU did the same, and Bridgewater covered 59 yards in 10 plays, ending with an eight yard touchdown run from Lawton. Chaput’s missed kick kept the score at 7-6 Shenandoah.

On the next drive, Sonnenburg was intercepted by Williams, who ran the ball to the 30-yard line. Three plays later, Lawton passed to Beck for a two yard touchdown, putting the Eagles up 12-7. After two penalties on the first two attempts for a two-point conversion, Lawton threw an incomplete pass to keep the score 12-7 with 13:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Not to be outdone, the Hornets responded with an eight play, 83-yard drive, capped with a 1 yard touchdown from Byrd Jr. The two-point attempt failed, and SU was up 13-12 with 10:05 remaining.

In a chaotic sequence, senior running back Demetreus Jalepes returned the kickoff from senior kicker Jack Massie to the Hornet 35, before fumbling it into the hands of Smaltz at the 34. 

Sonnenburg threw an interception to junior linebacker Brett Tharp on the next play, and the Eagles got the ball at their own 44 yard line. The Eagles moved quickly, and after a 16-yard run from Jalepes, BC was at the Hornets 21-yard line. While the Eagles would fail a fourth down attempt, a pass interference call on senior defensive back Jared Hunt opened the door for another touchdown run for Lawton. After a failed point after attempt, Bridgewater was up 18-13 with 4:37 left. 

Starting at their own 24, the Hornets wasted little time, with a 20-yard first down pass to Rauchwarg on the second play. Byrd Jr. would rush for a total of 31 yards on five of the next six plays, and an 11-yard reception from Rauchwarg put Shenandoah at the BC nine yard line. Two plays later, Sonnenburg connected with Butler for the game winner, putting SU up 19-18 with 32 seconds left. An onside kick from Massie put the Eagles just 58 yards from the goal line, but Lawton threw four incomplete passes to seal the Hornet victory.

Shenandoah had 378 yards, compared to 340 from BC. Bridgewater managed 31:11 on offense, while the Hornets managed to get by with only 28:49 of possession. There were four lead changes, all in the fourth quarter. SU forced the Eagles to punt five times, while only punting twice themselves.The Eagles and Hornets will meet again for ODAC’s Championship Weekend, with #5 seed Shenandoah playing host to #6 seed Bridgewater. The game will be Saturday, April 3 at 5 p.m., and will be the season finale for both teams. Live video is available from Shenandoah University.