The Bridgewater Eagles football team stared down a 22-point deficit early in the fourth quarter before mounting a feverish rally, but the rally came up short as Bridgewater fell by a 29-20 tally to the Shenandoah Hornets (2-2, 1-0 ODAC) on Saturday night at Shentel Stadium.
Bridgewater (3-1, 0-1 ODAC) committed four turnovers against the Hornets and couldn't find an answer to a solid Shenandoah defense until late in the game as the Eagles fell to Shenandoah for the first time since 2008. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak against the Hornets and marked the first Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) victory for Shenandoah in program history.
Following an opening drive for the Eagles that netted negative yards, the Hornets got on the board in a hurry.
Quarterback Drew Ferguson bolted 40 yards to set the Hornets up inside the Bridgewater 15 before running back Andrew Smith sprinted to the end zone from the 13 to put Shenandoah out in front by a 6-0 score.
Bridgewater struck back on the next drive to gain its first lead of the game. A 60-yard Jordan Hartman kick return set the Eagles up with excellent field position inside of the Shenandoah 30. Five plays later, quarterback Willie Logan sprinted to paydirt from the six to put the Eagles out in front by a 7-6 margin with 8:04 to play in the first stanza.
Both teams were unable to move across midfield on their next possessions before the Hornets regained the lead late in the first. A personal foul pushed the Hornets inside of the Bridgewater 30 to open the drive before Justin Neff hit Devon Newton on a 14-yard pattern to put Shenandoah out in front by a 12-7 tally as play shifted to the second quarter.
Shenandoah got back on the board early in the second, when Tim Frye split the uprights from 32 yards to put the Hornets up 15-7.
After the Hornets field goal, Logan was stripped of the ball on the first play of the next drive and Shenandoah recovered the fumble as the turnover bug struck the Eagles in the second frame.
Seven plays later, Smith bolted into the end zone from the three-yard line to build a 22-7 lead with 10:53 to go in the first half.
Both defenses settled in during the middle part of the second quarter before the Eagles special teams unit blocked a punt to set up good field position. Despite excellent starting field position, the Eagles threw three straight incomplete passes and settled for a 47-yard field goal attempt. Sophomore Chandler DeHaven's kick was blocked, keeping the score at a 22-7 Shenandoah lead.
Bridgewater embarked on its best drive of the half in the waning moments of the frame but Tyler Dawson's 51-yard field goal attempt went wide right to send the game into the intermission at a 22-7 Hornets lead.
Out of the intermission, the Bridgewater defense forced a much needed three and out to get the ball back to the offense.
The Eagles turned to a heavy dose of Jacob Wright before the drive stalled out just across midfield, forcing a Bridgewater punt.
Shenandoah followed with a lengthy clock chewing drive which moved the Hornets deep into Bridgewater territory before a fourth-and-four came up late in the third. The Hornets burned a timeout and came out of the stoppage and delivered a 32-yard screen pass from Neff to Miles Green on fourth down to build a 29-7 lead with 4:10 to go in the third quarter. Shenandoah went 95 yards in 11 plays on the drive.
Logan tossed his second interception of the day to open the next possession before the Bridgewater defense got a big stop to hold the Hornets lead at 22.
Bridgewater drove deep into Shenandoah territory on its next drive, but Logan was sacked on fourth down inside of the Hornets red zone as Shenandoah's solid defense held the Eagles off of the scoreboard to maintain a 29-7 advantage as the game headed to the final 15 minutes.
The Bridgewater defense came up with another three-and-out before the Eagles offense finally came alive. Bridgewater converted two fourth downs during a 13-play drive, before Logan capped off the drive with a five-yard quarterback keeper to trim the gap to 29-14 with 9:45 remaining.
Shenandoah looked to work the game clock on its next drive before Darrick Gore stepped in front of a Drew Ferguson pass and sprinted 38 yards to the end zone to cut the deficit to 29-20. Bridgewater's two-point attempt failed to keep the game a two-possession contest with less than eight minutes to play.
Bridgewater came up with another stop on the Hornets offense, but Shenandoah burned off nearly three minutes of the clock as the Eagles took over possession with 4:50 left in the game. Logan hit Jeffrey Moore for a first down, but Moore fumbled the ball for the fifth turnover of the day as the Eagles handed the Hornets the football in Bridgewater territory with just over four minutes remaining.
Shenandoah didn't move the football on its next possession and pinned the Eagles deep in Bridgewater territory with a punt to give the Eagles fresh hope with under two-and-a-half minutes to play.
The Eagles moved across midfield but couldn't convert a fourth down as they handed the ball back to Shenandoah and the Hornets went into victory formation en route to a 29-20 victory over Bridgewater.
Despite a slow start the Eagles outgained Shenandoah by a 341-330 tally, with most of Bridgewater's yards coming in the fourth quarter.
Wright led the Eagles with 11 carries for 45 yards, while Logan chipped in 13 carries for 13 yards and two scores.
Through the air, Logan finished the evening 27-of-50 for 276 yards and an interception.
Moore led the Eagles with seven catches for 81 yards.
Defensively, linebacker Andrew Palmer led the way with 10 total tackles
Shenandoah was led on the ground by a 72-yard evening from Smith.
Neff led the Shenandoah aerial assault with a 12-for-22 afternoon for 145 yards and two scores.
On the receiving end, Green led the way with four catches for 90 yards and a score.
Byron Mitchell was outstanding in the Shenandoah defensive unit, amassing 13 total tackles. Mitchell tallied 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss, forced two fumbles and recovered another in helping to lead the Hornets to the victory.
Bridgewater is back in action on Saturday at Hamnpden-Sydney. Kick off against the Tigers is set for 1 p.m.