WINCHESTER, Va. – Senior running back Darrin McKenzie scored three times and the defense forced four turnovers as the Bridgewater Eagles football team outdueled Shenandoah down the stretch to take home a 28-23 victory over the Hornets at Shentel Stadium in Winchester.
After a scoreless start from both teams, Shenandoah struck first with four minutes to play in the opening stanza when quarterback Daniel Wright took a keeper to the end zone to make the score 6-0. The PAT was blocked by senior Leigh Bradley to keep the tally at 6-0.
Bridgewater's offense remained stagnant, but the Eagles defense put points on the board when safety Jeff Mehlhaff stepped in front of a Wright pass and sprinted 32 yards to pay dirt to put BC ahead by a 7-6 score after kicker Will Davis connected on the extra point.
Shenandoah regained the lead on its ensuing drive when an eight play-67 yard drive was capped off by a 30 yard, Andrew Lloyd field goal to put the Hornets back ahead by a 9-7 score.
Following the Hornets score, the Eagles answered right back with a quick four-play drive which culminated in an 11 yard McKenzie touchdown run which put Bridgewater ahead by a 14-9 score as the two teams headed to the locker room.
The Eagles were outgained by the Hornets in the first half by a 197-to-124 tally, but the defense forced three key first-half Shenandoah turnovers to help maintain the lead.
Out of the intermission, Shenandoah struck first to regain the lead when a Wright keeper put the Hornets back up by a 16-14 tally midway through the third frame.
Eight minutes later, McKenzie pounced into the end zone for the second time on the night, this time on a two-yard carry to put the Eagles back ahead by a 22-16 tally after a Carlos Gonzalez pass to Cassidy Burns made the two-point conversion count with 46 ticks left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing offensive drive for the Eagles, McKenzie hit the trifecta when he capped off a six play, 48-yard drive with a nine yard burst with 10:47 remaining to effectively put the nail in the coffin with Bridgewater leading by a 28-16 margin.
Shenandoah wasn't ready to go down without a fight. The Hornets returned the score three-and-a-half minutes later when Wright connected with Qiydaar Murphy on a 19 yard pitch and catch to cut the Eagles lead to 28-23 with seven and change to play.
Bridgewater's ensuing drive crossed midfield before stalling out in Hornets territory, giving Shenandoah a chance to take the lead in the final minutes.
Shenandoah pecked towards midfield as the clock winded down with a fourth down on its own 40. The Eagles defense again came up big, providing its second fourth-down stop of the ball game to effectively seal the deal.
The Eagles marched deep into Hornets territory and threatened to score late before electing to run the clock out, securing a 28-23 victory over the host Hornets.
For the second straight week, the Bridgewater offense was outgained, as the Hornets owned a 397-to-355 edge on the offensive end.
On the ground is where the Eagles owned the game, rushing for 258 yards on 45 carries. McKenzie bulled for a season-high 186 yards on 28 carries and scored a career-high three times in the win to pace the way. Shenandoah rushed for 104 yards on 31 carries, with Carl Joseph leading the way for the Hornets with 95 yards on nine carries.
Through the air, the Hornets owned the day, with Wright throwing for a game-high 293 yards on 23-of-36 passing. Junior Carlos Gonzalez paced the pack for Bridgewater, completing 11-of-23 passes for 97 yards. Starting quarterback Jacob Hutchinson was injured on the first series of the game and never returned.
On the receiving end, Bridgewater was led by Julius Delbridge's two catches for 23 yards. Shenandoah had a pair of players go for over 100 yards through the air, as Murphy and Rico Wallace hauled in nine and eight passes, respectively, for 108 yards a piece.
Defensively, Chris Wholey led the Eagles with 11 tackles, including five solo stops. Interior lineman Danny Grogg recorded eight stops, and forced two fumbles on the eveing, while also recording the lone sack of the game and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Safety Larry Gibbs paced the way for the Hornets with a game-high 12 tackles.
Bridgewater is idle next week as the early season bye week hits. The Eagles are back in action on September 24 when they travel to Ferrum. Kickoff against the Panthers is slated for 2:00 p.m.