BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The Bridgewater Eagles football team is in a familiar situation for this weekend’s homecoming affair with Hampden-Sydney, while the Tigers are 2-2 for the first time since 2006.
Hampden-Sydney was the conference opener for the Eagles for a number of years, but the addition of Shenandoah placed the Tigers as the second stop of the year on the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) slate.
The two teams meet for the 69th time on Saturday in a series that began in 1929. In a time where every loss could spell the end of conference championship hopes, the two squads have overcome the early-season matchup and have combined to win eight of the past 11 ODAC titles.
Bridgewater is unbeaten entering Saturday’s contest with the Tigers and comes in unscathed against Hampden-Sydney for the fifth time in the last 12 seasons. The first three times the Eagles reigned supreme, but it was Hampden-Sydney ending a Bridgewater winning streak each of the last two times in 2007 and 2010. Hampden-Sydney’s 2007 victory opened its current five-game winning streak against Bridgewater.
The Eagles are fresh off of a 44-14 victory over Apprentice on the road last Saturday. Bridgewater exploded for 582 yards - the highest offensive total for the program since 2005. In the latest American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Poll, the Eagles picked up three votes to earn a total of four and remain in the other teams receiving votes category.
On the other side of the coin, the Tigers are reeling after a 41-28 loss to Catholic in a game that was a 27-point affair midway through the fourth quarter.
Hampden-Sydney enters Saturday’s contest with history on its side. The Tigers currently own a five-game winning streak against the Eagles with Bridgewater’s last win over Hampden-Sydney coming on the grass at Jopson Field in 2006 by a 31-13 score.
The Tigers took every punch the Eagles could throw at them last season at Everett Stadium and escaped with a 28-14 victory. Hampden-Sydney signal caller Travis Lane fired a pair of touchdown passes while Kirk Rohle ran for 134 yards and a pair of scores.
Bridgewater got a touchdown pass from Carlos Gonzalez and 85 yards rushing from Anthony Carter in last year’s loss.
While a five-game losing streak against the Tigers seems like a lot to overcome, head coach Michael Clark reminded the players during their meeting on Sunday evening that a much longer losing streak greeted him upon his arrival to the Bridgewater campus in 1995.
“When you talk about Bridgewater and Hampden-Sydney, everyone wants to talk about streaks. But streak is a relative term,” said Clark. “We snapped an 18-game Hampden-Sydney winning streak in 1996, and Marty (Favret) had to overcome an eight-game winning streak of ours. But what I told our kids was that last year’s game has no bearing on this weekend's game.”
Hampden-Sydney is led offensively by the play of sophomore quarterback Nash Nance. Nance transferred to Hampden-Sydney from the University of Tennessee in the summer and has thrown 11 touchdowns on the season, but has been intercepted five times.
Defensively, the Tigers are paced by senior linebacker Kenny Fryman’s 49 tackles including two for a loss.
Bridgewater continues to rely on the two-headed monster of Willie Logan and Jacob Wright. Logan owns a 7-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio, while Wright’s 91.8 yards per game on the ground ranks fifth in the league.
Defensively, the Eagles have made one of the best turnarounds in recent memory. Bridgewater currently leads the ODAC in every major statistical category and is led by the play of junior linebacker Andrew Palmer. Palmer currently boasts 30 tackles on the year including four for a loss and a pair of interceptions.
Saturday’s game is also significant for the Eagles as it marks Homecoming and Hall of Fame Day. At halftime, Amy Rafalski Hamilton ’98, James Hulvey ’73, Andrew Hence ’75 and Davon Lewis ’98 will be introduced as the newest members of the Bridgewater College Athletics Hall of Fame.
Hampden-Sydney owns the all-time series with the Eagles, boasting a 55-13 overall mark.
Kickoff at Jopson Field is set for 1 p.m. Fans at the game will have an opportunity to be selected to participate in a halftime contest to win a brand new 2013 Nissan Altima from Staunton Nissan and Subaru.
Tickets for Saturday afternoon's matchup are available at a cost of $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for students. Children under six are free. Programs are also available at the gate at a price of $2.
For fans who are unable to attend Saturday's contest, the game will be aired live on ESPN 1360 WHBG in the Shenandoah Valley starting with the pre-game show at 12:25 p.m. The game will also be video streamed via Bridgewater's partnership with NMTVNetworks.