EMORY, Va. – The Emory & Henry College Football Team (4-0, 1-0 ODAC) opened up a 31-7 lead in the third quarter and never looked back as it defeated visiting Randolph-Macon College (2-2, 0-1 ODAC) by a 38-28 score Saturday afternoon at Fred Selfe Stadium. The contest was E&H's first home game of the year and the latest home opener since an Oct. 9 contest against Maryville College in the 1965 season.
It was a special day on the Emory & Henry campus with ceremonies dedicating Lou Wacker Grandstand, Fullerton Plaza and the Coaching Legends Walk. The College also welcomed parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of its current students as part of the Family Weekend festivities.
Randolph-Macon started the contest off with the ball but senior safety Clint Peregoy (Salem, Va.) picked off a pass to give E&H its first possession of the game. The Wasps came out in true fashion to honor the legends of the past, running their first offensive play in the "Emory & Henry" formation, created by Coach Conley Snidow and made famous around the country by Steve Spurrier.
Emory & Henry took a 3-0 lead with 7:43 left in the first quarter when senior Austin Breed (Atlanta, Ga.) converted a 33-yard field goal after a 14-play, 47-yard drive stalled inside the R-MC 20-yardline.
The Yellow Jackets answered to take a 7-3 lead on the second play of the second quarter when Dom Kaopua ran the ball in from 39 yards out for the score. After the two teams traded possessions, Emory & Henry got the ball back at its own 20 yardline. The Wasps struck down the field, putting together a drive that balanced the run and the pass. Freshman quarterback Kevin Saxton (Monroe, N.C.) hit junior tight end Ashton Cline (Gilbert, W.Va.) with a 16-yard pass to give E&H a 10-7 lead which would hold through the half.
Emory & Henry got the ball to start the second half and immediately went on to push the margin to 17-7. With a short field thanks to a big kickoff return by sophomore Tre'von Lightfoot (Big Island, Va.) the Wasps needed only five plays to score their third touchdown of the game. The drive was highlighted by a 17-yard run by freshman Chris Thompson (Blue Ridge, Va.) which set up a three-yard dive by Saxton.
E&H added two more touchdowns in the third quarter for a 31-7 advantage. Senior running back Kasey Jones (Jacksonville, Fla.) ran one in from four yards out while Saxton hooked up with Cline for a seven-yard catch for Cline's second score of the game. That drive was set up by a swarming Wasp defense which stopped the Yellow Jackets with a yard to go on back-to-back plays.
Randolph-Macon got on the board for the first time in the second half during its first drive of the fourth quarter. Kaopua had 37 yards on the ground while John Byrd capped the drive off with a 12-yard run to make the score 31-14 with 9:37 left.
On the ensuing drive, Emory & Henry was forced to punt, but the R-MC return man muffed the punt, giving the Wasps the ball and a new set of downs on the Yellow Jacket 13. Three plays later, Saxton got his third touchdown of the game, finding senior wideout Lucas Kirby (Covington, Va.) in the back left corner of the end zone for the score.
The Yellow Jackets put would not go down without a fight. Using a hurry-up offense for the first time in the game, Randolph-Macon quarterback Zac Naccarato guided the offense down the field finding Mike Doe with a 25-yard touchdown pass to make the score 38-21. R-MC recovered the onside kick and struck again covering 54 yards on three plays and taking just 26 seconds off the clock. Doe hauled in another pass from Naccarato, this time a 33-yarder.
Randolph-Macon nabbed another onside kick but the E&H defense forced a fumble on third down to set up the victory formation and the 38-28 win.
The win was the first for the Wasps against the Yellow Jackets since the 2011 season and saw Emory & Henry score the most points against a Randolph-Macon team since 2004 when they put 48 on the board.
Saxton led the Wasps with 255 passing yards and three touchdowns on a 29-for-41 day despite a pair of interceptions. Thompson was the leading rusher for E&H with 109 yards while freshman Isaiah Rodgers (Canton, Ga.) chipped in 80 yards. Senior wide receiver Josh Smith (Radford, Va.) caught 12 passes for 128 yards while Cline finished the game with five catches and 46 yards and two scores. Kirby notched 32 yards and a touchdown with his five receptions.
Emory & Henry gained 446 yards of offense and held the ball for 28:06 of the game earning 30 first downs on 84 plays. The Wasps lost three fumbles to go along with two interceptions but the defense made big plays to keep the Yellow Jackets on their heels all game long.
R-MC was led by Kaopua, who ran for a game-high 149 yards and a touchdown. Byrd had 120 yards and the Yellow Jackets' other rushing score. Naccarato went 14-for-27 through the air for 151 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown as Doe caught a total of nine balls for 114 yards and two scores.
Randolph-Macon outgained E&H by a single yard (447), but was also plagued by the turnover bug, losing three fumbles and one interception. The Yellow Jackets were just three-for-14 on third down and converted only one-of-three fourth-down tries.
Defensively, E&H was paced once again by senior safety Roth Healey (Easton, Pa.) as he led all players with 14 tackles and two passes broken up. Junior corner Ryan Byrd (Grottoes, Va.) had 11 tackles while senior linebacker Paul Forney (Newton, N.C.) made 10 stops and forced a fumble. Peregoy added seven tackles to his interception while sophomore defensive end Jaylen Simmons (Chattanooga, Tenn.) had a sack and recovered a pair of fumbles.
The Yellow Jackets' defense was led by Connor Lane, who made nine tackles and picked off a pass prior to being ejected for a targeting foul. Tom Solak made six tackles including 3.5 for a loss and added a forced fumble while Ryan Burns added six stops and had two passes broken up and an interception.
Emory & Henry will return to the road next Saturday when it makes the trip up Interstate 81 to Bridgewater College. Kickoff between the Wasps and Eagles is set for 1:00 p.m., at Jopson Field.
-photo courtesy of Dave Grace