BRIDGEWATER, Va. – For the second year in a row, the Bridgewater Eagles football team will open the conference schedule with an unblemished mark as the 3-0 Eagles make the trip to Shenandoah on Saturday evening for a matchup with the Hornets.
Entering Saturday night's showdown at Shentel Stadium, the Eagles have won four games in a row against the Hornets following last season's 17-14 victory at Jopson Field.
Last season, freshman kicker John Griggs punched in a 33-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to break a 14-14 deadlock and the Bridgewater College defense got a late hold as the Eagles moved to 3-0 on the season with a 17-14 victory over the Hornets. The win marked the 12th victory for the Eagles in the series with Shenandoah and the first with the Hornets as an Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) foe.
Coming off of the traditional early season off week, the Eagles will look to keep the league's top scoring offense in high gear as Bridgewater comes into the game averaging 48.7 points per game. Bridgewater's offense ranks eighth nationally in points per game and is inside of the top 40 in rushing offense (39th, 225.3 ypg), total offense (26th, 478.3 ypg) and time of possession (26th, 34 minutes/g).
Bridgewater's stout offense is led by senior quarterback Willie Logan who has been efficient through the first three contests. Logan is completing 65.7% of his passes and has thrown for 682 yards and five touchdowns. On the ground, Logan is Bridgewater's second-leading rusher with 117 yards and three scores. The Luray, Va. native ranks third in the conference in total passing yards, yards per game and completion percentage.
Junior Jacob Wright continues to lead a ground attack for the Eagles that has allowed Bridgewater to embark on a number of clock-chewing drives over the opening three weeks of play. Wright is tied for the league lead with six rushing touchdowns and ranks sixth in the conference with 95 yards per game. Wright bolted for a career-high three scores in Bridgewater's 51-28 victory in the non-conference finale with Ferrum.
On the receiving end, Logan continues to distribute the ball to a number of different receivers with senior wide receiver Cassidy Burns leading the way. Burns turned in a career day against the Panthers with 11 catches for 193 yards with both marking career highs. Currently, the Clifton Forge, Va. native is tied for the league lead with three touchdown catches and ranks second in yards per game with 105.7. Burns has hauled in a touchdown pass in each of the first three games.
Defensively, the Eagles remain one of the top units in the ODAC after leading the league a season ago in every major statistical category.
Linebacker Andrew Palmer remains the top tackler through three games, averaging 8.3 stops per game, which ranks him in a tie for fourth in the league.
Overall, the Bridgewater defense ranks second behind Hampden-Sydney in yards allowed per game, with opponents amassing a meager 240.7 yards per game. Bridgewater leads the league in defensive scores with three defensive touchdowns on the year. The Eagles are second in the league with four interceptions, trailing league-leading Emory & Henry which has picked off seven passes on the year.
Bridgewater has also seen stellar special teams play through the opening three weeks of the season with sophomore Chandler DeHaven leading the way. DeHaven has split the uprights on five of six field goal attempts on the season and is 15-of-16 on PATs. The Winchester, Va. native matched the Bridgewater single-game record with three field goals against Ferrum.
Shenandoah enters Saturday evening's showdown with a 1-2 mark after falling to nationally-ranked Christopher Newport by a 34-6 score on September 21 at Pomoco Stadium on the CNU campus.
The Hornets fell by a 31-20 score in the season-opener at home against Gallaudet but avenged that loss the next week with a convincing 43-29 win at Ferrum. Shenandoah's win over Ferrum snapped a 10-game losing streak.
First-year head coach Scott Yoder is utilizing a dual-quarterback system at the start of the season with freshman Justin Neff and junior transfer Drew Ferguson splitting time under center. Neff leads the Hornets in passing with 379 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Ferguson, a transfer from perennial Division III power Mount Union, has thrown three touchdown passes but has been intercepted twice. The junior has also rushed for a score.
On the ground, Shenandoah's typically stout rushing attack is spearheaded by the play of sophomore Andrew Smith. Smith's averaging 105.3 yards per game to rank fifth in the league and also has a touchdown run to his credit. Fellow sophomore Josh Wells has scampered to the end zone three times to lead the Hornets ground game.
Freshman Qlyl Middeljin leads Shenandoah on the receiving end with 12 catches for 203 yards and a score. Smith and Brandon Adams have also been active and lead the team with 13 catches each.
Shenandoah's stellar defense returns again this season and is led by sophomore Michael Messick and senior Byron Mitchell. Messick's amassed 30 tackles on the year, including two-and-a-half for a loss. Mitchell, the younger sibling of former Bridgewater defensive back Brandon Mitchell, has also been stout for the Hornets with 25 tackles and one sack.
Bridgewater owns the all-time series against the Hornets with a 12-1 mark. Shenandoah's lone victory in the series came in 2008 at Jopson Field by a 10-6 tally. The Eagles are a perfect 6-0 against Shenandoah at Shentel Stadium. The last five contests in the series have been decided by a combined 27 points.
The contest also marks United Way Night for the Hornets, as Shenandoah recognizes the works of the United Way in the greater Winchester area.
Kick off on Saturday evening is set for 7 p.m. at the Sprint Field at Shentel Stadium. For fans who are unable to attend, the game will be aired live on 95.5 WBOP FM in the Shenandoah Valley with the pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m.