EMORY — One of these days, Emory & Henry’s football team is going to knock Hampden-Sydney off its Old Dominion Athletic Conference pedestal.
Saturday wasn’t that day.
Corey Sedlar passed for 320 yards and three touchdowns and the Tigers escaped with a 23-12 win over the Wasps at Fullerton Field.
“Hampden-Sydney is a really good football team. They’ve dismantled just about everybody they’ve played and they didn’t dismantle us,” said E&H coach Don Montgomery.
An enthusiastic crowd of 6,127 — not counting the merry throng outside the stadium — turned out for the battle between unbeatens.
“I’m proud of how hard everybody played today. We fought hard. We were never out of this game,” said Wasps tailback Caleb Jennings.
Jennings had the faithful roaring at Fred Selfe Stadium when he blasted off 74 yards to cut the Tigers’ lead to 14-7 with 1:35 remaining in the first half. It augured a far closer contest than first impressions might’ve indicated.
Hampden-Sydney (6-0, 3-0) shocked the Wasps from the outset, receiving the opening kickoff and taking less than two minutes to score. Sedlar capped the five-play, 62-yard scoring drive with his 25-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Mancini.
Sedlar hit paydirt again with 5:23 left in the quarter with his 14-yard TD toss to Mancini, capped by David Prizzia’s point-after kick for the 14-0 lead.
That two-play scoring drive originated well inside the red zone. It was gifted by Michael Ware’s interception of a Drew Piscopo pass attempt. For the remainder of the first half, Sedlar had a much rougher go of it.
The Wasps (4-1, 0-1) kept the pressure on the fifth-year senior with four sacks and a handful of hurries. For the remainder of the half, a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Prizzia was the Tigers’ next best scoring opportunity.
“We just changed things up and tried to be a little deceptive to try to confuse their quarterback. He’s a real good quarterback and he showed that today,” said Wasps linebacker Ed Smith, who sacked Sedlar twice for minus-18 yards.
Getting Sedlar out of his rhythm proved a huge help for E&H. The Tigers’ opening scoring drive evoked a gamble that worked wonders.
“In watching five games’ worth of film, I never saw anybody get to their quarterback. So the temptation was not to blitz,” Montgomery said.
“We couldn’t let him sit there, because he was too good. We were blitzing out of need. We didn’t go in there thinking we were going to blitz him, but we were ready to.”
Emory & Henry had a golden opportunity to tie the game before the half.
Derrick Patterson’s sack of Sedlar late in the third quarter forced a fumble recovered by Kent Moles on the Wasps’ 41.
Piscopo’s 34-yard completion to Corey Shepherd and his own 8-yard scramble got E&H to the Tigers’ 17-yard line. But Hampden-Sydney’s defense held and Matt Turchin’s subsequent 34-yard field goal attempt with 17 seconds showing went wide left.
It foreshadowed a dismal day for Turchin, who missed another 34-yard attempt with 11:33 left in the third quarter. Freshman Ked Byrd stepped in for a 27-yard field goal that made it 14-10 at 6:22 in the third period. Turchin got one last crack at it with 1:06 left in the game, but his 35-yard attempt bounced off the left upright.
The Tigers adjusted for a third- quarter scoring drive capped by Sedlar’s 3-yard touchdown throw to running back Kirk Rohle, putting Hampden-Sydney up 21-10.
The only scoring in the fourth quarter came from the squads trading team safeties.
“I think our kids played a pretty good football game. We didn’t execute at times when we needed to execute. But I can’t do anything but say I’m proud of my kids for hanging in and playing hard,” Montgomery said.
“Whatever we learned about ourselves in this game, we’ll move forward.”