Junior Matthew Pisarcik connected with Jacob Wright on a 47-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and the Bridgewater defense had two fourth-down stops over the final four minutes of play as the Eagles defeated Shenandoah by a 27-23 tally in a Saturday night slugfest.
The game marked the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) opener for both teams, while the win secured Bridgewater’s first 4-0 start since 2010. In a back-and-forth affair, the game also marked the seventh straight time that the Eagles and Hornets battled in a game that was decided by nine or less points.
Bridgewater (4-0, 1-0 ODAC) opened the game with a promising drive, but the Eagles came up empty at the Shenandoah 25. After the fourth-down stop from the Hornets defense, the Bridgewater defense forced a three-and-out and Jordan Hartman returned Christian Arias’ punt 56 yards to setup the first score of the game.
Two plays later, Wright burst off the right side of the line and sprinted 13 yards to the endzone to build a 7-0 Bridgewater lead with 9:08 to play in the first quarter.
Bridgewater’s defense again forced a three-and-out but Pisarcik was intercepted on the ensuing drive when Josh White stepped in front of the junior’s pass and ran the ball back to the Eagles’ 21.
Following the turnover, the Hornets needed just five plays to tally the equalizer. Drew Ferguson hooked up with Cedrick Delaney on a 14-yard touchdown pass to tie the game up at seven points each.
Both defenses settled in after the Shenandoah score as the game remained deadlocked until the final play of the opening half.
Shenandoah (2-2, 0-1 ODAC) grinded out a 15-play drive over the final five minutes of the first half to take a 10-7 lead into the locker room. The Hornets moved to the Bridgewater seven-yard line before settling for a field goal. Jacob Newton’s 25-yard kick split the uprights to hand Shenandoah a 10-7 halftime lead.
Out of the intermission, a miscue cost the Hornets on the opening kickoff. Leonard Scott couldn’t get a handle on the John Griggs kickoff and Josh Yagel pounced on the loose ball to give the Eagles excellent field position at the Shenandoah 25.
Five plays later, Wright burst through the line again and sprinted 14 yards to the endzone to build a 14-10 Bridgewater lead.
Shenandoah responded with a 13-play scoring drive to regain the lead. A run-heavy drive for the Hornets was capped off by a one-yard Delaney touchdown carry to put the visitors back in front by a 16-14 tally. Newton’s PAT was blocked by William Hanna to keep the contest at a two-point affair.
Bridgewater answered right back after the Hornets tally. The Eagles approached midfield but couldn’t pick up a first down as Tyler Dawson went back into punt formation on fourth down. Dawson pulled the snap and sprinted off of the right side of the line for a first down. On the ensuing play, Pisarcik connected with Cliff Woodard from 37 yards to push the lead back to four at a 20-16 tally with 6:26 to play in the third quarter. The touchdown reception was Woodard’s sixth of the season and sent the Eagles to the fourth quarter with the lead.
The Hornets regained the upper hand early in the fourth quarter. Shenandoah rushed the ball nine times on a 10-play drive and capped off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run from Kye Hopkins to take a 23-20 lead.
After back-to-back three and outs from both teams the Eagles moved into Hornets territory. The Eagles had a pair of holding calls, which brought the squad back to the 47-yard line. Following the second hold, Pisarcik dropped back and found Wright on a 47-yard touchdown pass to push the Eagles back out in front by a 27-23 score with 3:39 to play.
Shenandoah approached midfield on the ensuing drive before an incomplete pass brought up fourth down. Ferguson’s fourth-down carry was stuffed after a one-yard gain, handing the ball back to the Eagles with 2:09 to play.
Bridgewater couldn’t pick up a first down on the next drive but grinded 62 seconds off of the clock. Dawson bobbled the punt and fell on the ball, handing the ball back to the Hornets at the Bridgewater 44 with 1:07 to play and no timeouts.
Ferguson delivered a swing pass to Delaney on first down for a three-yard gain before a pair of passes fell incomplete to bring up fourth down. Logan Whitaker and Nicholas Cawthon sacked Ferguson for a loss of nine to hand the ball back to the Eagles. Bridgewater went into genuflect formation and Pisarcik took a knee to keep the Eagles unbeaten with a 27-23 victory.
Wright led the Bridgewater ground attack with a 107-yard evening. The senior carried the ball 23 times and scored twice on his first 100-plus yard rushing game of the season.
Pisarcik was efficient all evening, completing 10-of-14 passes for 155 yards and two scores. He was picked off once. Ross Rushing went 2-for-4 on the evening for 29 yards.
Woodard led all receivers with five grabs for 69 yards and a score. Wright added a touchdown score through the air with his lone reception of 47 yards.
Shenandoah’s ground attack rolled up 303 yards on 57 carries with Delaney’s 121-yard evening leading the way.
Ferguson finished the game 9-of-18 for 92 yards and score. The Hornets’ triggerman was also intercepted once.
Delaney led the offense with five receptions for 58 yards and a score.
Defensively, Michael Messick led the way with 16 tackles, including one sack and 2 ½ tackles for a loss.
Bridgewater returns to action on Saturday at home against unbeaten Emory & Henry. Start time against the Wasps is set for 1 p.m.