Systemic changes led to improved season

Nolan Potts, ‘Doah Staff Writer
November 20, 2013

'Doah photo courtesy of SU Athletics

‘Doah photo courtesy of SU Athletics

Culture is defined as, “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” When a coaching change takes place, it typically means that the culture needed some type of revamping, and that definitely applies to the Shenandoah football team.

When former head coach Paul Barnes was relieved of his duties in November 2012 after 41 wins in 11 seasons, it was apparent that the program needed to head in a different direction.

To address this need, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Doug Zipp conducted a nationwide search to usher in a new era of S.U. football. In January 2013, Zipp hired Scott Yoder to lead the Hornet football program and develop a consistent winning culture- something that has been lacking in past years.

Yoder is a 2001 graduate of Hobart College in New York and spent the following 12 years as an assistant coach at his alma mater. Taking over a team that finished 1-9 overall and 0-7 in their first year in the ODAC, Yoder had a lot of work to do entering his first head-coaching job.

One of the first things he did was meet with the returning players and set his expectations of what direction the program was heading. The returners went through a rigorous course of workouts during the spring, and they, along with the incoming freshmen, pushed through a very difficult series of summer practices just to have the opportunity to put on the jersey in the fall.

With a new head coach, optimism around the football program was higher campus-wide than it had ever been in years. The excitement even made its way onto social media sites, and before the season even started, players and fans alike were talking about the season to come. The Twitter hashtag “#RedDawn” was developed by new offensive coordinator Stan Hodgin, and it was used throughout the entire season and served as the team motto.

In all, the team finished 4-6 overall and 3-4 in their second season in the ODAC.

The team didn’t have big playmakers such as former All-American wide receiver Rico Wallace and quarterback Daniel Wright in the first year of the Scott Yoder era, but they have a very talented and dedicated group of young players, as well as a coaching staff that will continue to bring in recruits.

They got great leadership out of the four captains that were elected for this season. Those four were seniors Byron Mitchell, Sean Blackman and Preston Funk, along with junior David Bell.

The team got good production out of freshman quarterback Justin Neff and sophomore running back Andrew Smith, who earned ODAC Offensive Player of the Week honors after a program-record 357 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in an upset victory over Hampden-Sydney.

Sophomore Brandon Adams was the team’s leader in receptions, along with freshman wide receiver Qyli Middelijn and freshman tight end Miles Green. Defensively, the team was lead by Mitchell, who was named ODAC Defensive Player of the Week multiple times during the course of the season.

When you consider the majority of the starters on both sides of the ball are returning, along with a new recruiting class and another year for the returners to get acclimated to Coach Yoder’s system, the 2014 football season should bring just as much, if not more, optimism to the football program.

Change can sometimes be a scary thing, but after the Hornets only won one game in 2012, a four win season is certainly a step in the right direction and nothing to be ashamed of in such a difficult conference.

In my opinion, as someone who isn’t a member of the football team, the change in culture has definitely been noticeable throughout campus in just one season. With more time, the football team has the potential to accomplish feats that haven’t been associated with S.U. football in a long time.

With a young, enthusiastic head coach who knows how to motivate his players, an experienced coaching staff and very talented players on both sides of the ball, don’t be surprised if you see Hornets rising up the ODAC standings in the years to come.

It’s only a matter of time before they become a force to be reckoned with and a team that can compete for a conference championship year in and year out.

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