Tigers secure win after overtime touchdown
Melik Frost scored on a touchdown run in overtime, then James Townsend blocked a potential game-tying PAT kick by Shenandoah University (SU), as Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) took a 26-25 Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) football victory on Saturday.
Playing in front of the home crowd, Frost rushed for a season and game-high of 110 yards and two touchdowns, while senior quarterback Andrew Puccinelli passed for 252 yards and one touchdown, as the host Tigers (6-3, 4-2 ODAC) won their home finale for retiring 24th-year head coach Marty Favret (151-89) against the visiting Hornets (5-4, 3-3 ODAC).
A RUN AT OVERTIME
SU won the OT coin toss and elected to play defense, and H-SC promptly went 25 yards on seven plays with Frost scoring on the four-yard touchdown run ahead of the PAT kick by Swett. Frost covered 17 of the yards on five attempts, while sophomore wide receiver Mason Cunningham had two receptions for eight yards.
The Hornets then scored a touchdown on their first play in OT, a 25-yard pass from Hugney to Domenico, but the potential game-tying PAT kick was blocked by Townsend to preserve the thrilling triumph.
The hard-fought and closely-played contest featured only a field goal in the opening quarter, a 23-yard effort by Martin as SU led 3-0.
H-SC scored 10 second-quarter points to take the advantage, getting a two-yard touchdown run from Frost at 10:59, with Swett adding the PAT kick for the 7-3 lead. It was a five-play, 43-yard scoring drive that featured Frost on four attempts for 20 yards on the ground, along with a huge 23-yard completion from Puccinelli to freshman wide receiver Ethan Dowdy. Swett added a 25-yard field goal with 1:23 remaining in the half, capping a 14-play, 61-yard possession for a 10-3 lead at halftime.
IN THE SECOND HALF
The Tigers added the only touchdown of the third quarter to lead 16-3 going into the fourth quarter. The score came with 5:13 left in the quarter, courtesy of a two-yard touchdown pass from Puccinelli to-who else-Fernandez; however, the PAT kick was wide left. It was a five-play, 30-yard drive that was set-up by the defense of the Garnet & Grey … with senior cornerback Tobias Lafayette (Charleston, SC) making an interception at midfield and returning it 20 yards to the SU 30-yard line. Whitby had a 17-yard reception to start it, before Frost added 11 yards on three attempts, ahead of the touchdown.
SU closed to within 16-10 at 11:52 of the final quarter via a six-yard touchdown pass from Hugney to Andre Jackson, with Martin adding the PAT kick. The Hornets were within 16-12 after H-SC elected to take a safety with 3:20 on the clock. SU then took its ensuing possession following the kickoff and drove 58 yards on five plays with Hugney and Domenico connecting on the 12-yard score at 1:45-the PAT kick by Martin making it a 19-16 contest-setting things up for the late-game heroics by the Tigers to tie it and force the OT toward the triumph.
BY THE NUMBERS
Frost rushed for his game-high and season-high 110 yards on a career-high 34 attempts and two touchdowns, adding four receptions for 24 yards receiving for H-SC. Puccinelli passed for his 252 yards (28-355-1) and one touchdown with one interception. Fernandez had 84 yards receiving on six receptions and one touchdown, while Cunningham finished with eight receptions for 38 yards, Bowling had three receptions for 43 yards and Whitby added five receptions for 34 yards.
Senior All-American safety and team captain Will Pickren finished with 10 tackles and one pass breakup to lead the Tigers on defense-becoming the school’s career leader with 355 tackles on the Hill-surpassing Brendan Weinberg ‘22 (345). Classmate and linebacker Dorian Green had six tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss. Townsend and sophomore running back Markevus Graves-Franklin each totaled five tackles-Graves-Franklin making all of his stops on special teams-and of course Townsend adding the crucial, game-saving block of the PAT kick in overtime. Six defenders finished with four tackles, including Lafayette-who had the interception and three pass breakups-senior defensive tackle Kevin Gholson, senior safety and team captain James-Ryan Salvi, junior linebacker Jackson Lott, sophomore safety Jaylan Long and freshman linebacker Harrison Wood, who had 1.5 tackles for loss and one pass breakup. Lott added two pass breakups and Gholson had one pass breakup.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR TIGERS?
H-SC plays at archrival and nationally-ranked No. 9 Randolph-Macon College next Saturday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m. in Ashland. This marks the 128th edition of “The Game” in what’s considered the Oldest Small School Rivalry in the South.