EMORY — Emory & Henry won Saturday’s homecoming football game over Washington and Lee with a highlight-reel moment, but the victory came after a lot of struggle.
Consider that the Generals held a 21-point lead at the 9:56 mark of the third quarter.
“I never felt like the game was over,” E&H head coach Curt Newsome said. “We just had to remain patient.”
Thanks to some clever adjustments on defense and a relentless offense, the patient and productive Wasps rallied for a 48-42 ODAC win.
The homecoming day attendance was listed at 6,245, and the party among the E&H faithful lasted well into the evening.
“This was one of the greatest wins I’ve been part of,” E&H senior defensive end Da’von Keith said. “We gave this big crowd something to be proud of.”
E&H (4-2, 3-1) faced two glaring issues in the first half. W&L (4-2, 3-1) generated 306 total yards out of its multifaceted flexbone attack while the Wasps managed just 57 yards rushing against a unit that was ranked fifth nationally in run-defense.
Offensive coordinators Kevin Saxton and Kamden BeCraft went back to the E&H lab at halftime along with defensive coordinator Tommy Buzzo. The adjustments paid dividends.
Taking advantage of a three-man defensive front, E&H burned the clock with a more consistent running game.
Meanwhile, the E&H defensive linemen closed down the gaps that W&L quarterback Trey Laughlin had been able to exploit.
“We knew this would be a physical game that would take four quarters of effort,” Keith said. “We had to man up across the line and give our linebackers a chance to make plays.”
E&H sophomore linebacker Ivan Phillips and 5-foot-6, 190-pound master-blaster Deonte Geddis led the Wasps with nine 11 tackles apiece. Phillips also scored on a 19-yard fumble recovery, following a hit on the ball carrier by Geddis from safety position.
“Emory has a very fast and physical group on defense,” W&L coach Garrett LeRose said. “We did some good things in the first half, but Emory limited opportunities in the second half.”
While former Staunton River star T.J. Tester accounted for 107 yards rushing for the Wasps, quarterback Hunter Taylor morphed into full Brett Favre mode in the second half.
The 6-foot junior, who declined to make a post-game comment, completed 30 of 47 passes for four scores and 368 yards with two interceptions. He also rushed for 54 yards on 16 carries.
“Hunter is a winner, and our receivers made tough catches all day,” Newsome said.
After falling behind again 42-28 with 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, E&H forced a 42-42 tie at the 1:40 mark when Taylor hit 5-10 sophomore Jeff Wallace on a 4-yard scoring connection.
Taylor finished it off with a 39-yard TD pass to Max Yates as time expired.
“I saw the whole thing go down,” receiver Gunner Griffith said. “We had three of our tallest guys on one side, and I was coming on the back side to check for tips.
“Hunter just threw the ball up. Sure enough, Max got up there and snagged it. I’ve got to get Max some sort of present for that play.”
The Generals had reeled four straight wins behind hot-throwing sophomore Jack Pollard at quarterback, but LeRose opted to go with Laughlin the entire game Saturday. The junior from Henrico ran for 86 yards and completed 7 of 18 passes for 174 yards.
“Our offensive line played great and I thought we had a good game plan,” Laughlin said. “It was a great game overall.”
According to Newsome, it was one of the most dramatic games he’s been involved in.
“And I’ve been on the sidelines for a lot of games,” said Newsome, pointing to the color of his hair. “Even though things were a little shaky early today, I feel good about how we’ve played the past four weeks.”