BRIDGEWATER, Va. – Senior linebacker Scottie Littles' (Norfolk, Va./Landstown) 35 yard interception return with two and change to play proved to be the difference as the Bridgewater Eagles football team held off a late Shenandoah rally to be victorious by a 38-31 score over the Hornets in the Eagles home opener at Jopson Field.
Both teams traded touchdowns early, but it was the Eagles that struck first with a 33 yard strike from quarterback Hagan Driskell (Ruther Glen, Va./Caroline) to Tyler Beiler (Ronks, Pa./Conestoga Valley) to put Bridgewater ahead 7-0 early in the opening frame.
Shenandoah answered quickly with a passing touchdown of its own when Daniel Wright connected with Rico Wallace from 23 yards out to knot the game up at seven each with nine and change to play in the opening quarter.
Bridgewater took the lead back on the ensuing drive when senior tailback Thomas Tate (Staunton, Va./Robert E. Lee) broke free and scampered 28 yards to the endzone to give the Eagles the lead at a 14-7 margin.
After stopping the Hornets on their next drive, Bridgewater opened the second quarter with a blocked punt for a safety to push its lead to 16-7.
Following the Bridgewater safety, Shenadoah scored the final tally of the half, when Wright hooked up with Wallace again, this time from 17 yards out to cut the Eagles lead to 16-14 as both teams headed to the locker room.
Out of the intermission, Shenandoah's defense held the Bridgewater offense in check before taking the lead at a 21-16 tally with 12:14 to play in the third on an eight yard run from running back Brad Martz.
Six minutes later, the Eagles took the lead back off of a 61 yard burst from senior Darrin McKenzie (Rustburg, Va./Brookville) to put Bridgewater ahead 24-21.
Shenandoah recorded the final score of the third quarter when an Andrew Lloyd field goal from 43 yards out split the uprights to knot the game at 24 each heading into the final 15 minutes of play.
After a dozen scoreless minutes in the final stanza, the Eagles lined up for a 28 yard field goal, before holder Jacob Hutchinson (Greenville, Va./Riverheads) pulled the snap and bolted 11 yards to the endzone to put Bridgewater ahead 31-24.
Forty-nine seconds later, it looked as if the Eagles sealed the deal when Littles ranged to his right and stepped in front of a Wright pass across the middle to put the Eagles up 38-24 with 2:27 to play.
But Shenandoah wasn't done yet. The Hornets engineered a five play, 59 yard drive to inch within seven at a 38-31 score with 87 ticks to play.
The Hornets attempted the onside kick, but it was recovered on the far side by Hutchinson, effectively sealing the victory for Bridgewater and pushing the Eagles to 2-0 on the young season with a hard fought 38-31 win.
Offensively, the Eagles outgained the Hornets by a 333-to-248 tally.
On the ground, McKenzie led the way with 114 yards and a touchdown. Tate pitched in an additional 81 yards on 18 carries as the Eagles outgained the Hornets by a 204-to-30 tally rushing. The 30 yard total for the Hornets was the lowest for a Bridgewater opponent since the season finale in 2008 at Catholic when the Eagles held the Cardinals to 35 yards.
Through the air, Driskell was efficient, completing eight of 14 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. The senior was sacked four times, but held off a speedy off tackle blitz from the Hornets all day long.
Beiler was again impressive with 195 all-purpose yards, including a 93-yard day on the receiving end. The Ronks, Pa. native also returned three kicks for 102 yards. With his 93-yard game, Beiler moved into third on the career receiving list at Bridgewater and became just the fifth receiver in school history to cross the 100 career catches plateau.
Defensively, the Eagles were led by Littles and Darrin Stephenson (Chesapeake, Va./Indian River) with nine tackles a piece. The interception return to the endzone was the first for the Eagles since Tony Konate's 58 yard return a season ago at Washington and Lee. For Littles, it was his first career defensive score.
Shenandoah was led on the ground by an 82 yard day from Martz.
Through the air, Wright was 15-of-30 for 218 yards and two touchdowns, but three costly interceptions proved to be a thorn in the side of the Hornets.
Wallace was impressive on the receiving end with eight catches for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Defensively, reigning USA South Co-Defensive Player of the Week Corey Giffing led the way with 10 stops.
Bridgewater was penalized nine times for 78 yards in the victory. Both teams were paltry on third down, as the Eagles converted 4-of-14 third down attempts and the Hornets were 4-of-15.
The Eagles have a bye week coming up and are next in action on Saturday, September 25 at 1:00 p.m. when they play host to Ferrum College.