HAMPDEN-SYDNEY, VA-The Hampden-Sydney football team started its season on the right note, taking a 20-17 victory over Averett in front of the Tiger faithful in the 2017 opener. The game was back and forth the whole way with four lead changes. It was the Tigers who changed the lead the fourth and final time on a Major Morgan (Onancock, VA/Broadwater Academy) touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers outgained Averett by over 100 yards, putting up 339 yards of offense to the Cougars' 228. The yards came in different ways for each team – Hampden-Sydney went to the air for 288 yards, and Averett pounded the ball for 175 rushing yards on 44 carries.
Not only were the Tigers the last to score, but they were also the first, getting on the board on their second drive of the game as a 21-yard punt return from Kendall Blankenship (Appomattox, VA/Appomattox) set up a 25-yard strike from Alec Cobb (Jamestown, NC/Ragsdale) to Dillon Costello (South Riding, VA/Paul VI).
Each team then punted twice before the Cougars got on the board behind a 51-yard field goal from Cole Westbury,
After a three-and-out from the Tigers, Averett took its first lead of the game at as 26-yard rush from Delquan Bigelow put the Cougars up 10-6.
Hampden-Sydney, however, came out in the second half with a bang. Ryan Mallory (Mechanicsville, VA/Hanover) cut Averett's opening drive short with an interception in Hampden-Sydney territory. The Tiger offense then took that momentum to drive 62 yards in 14 plays, resulting in a Mike DeMasi (Virginia Beach, VA/Frank W. Cox) two-yard touchdown run. Cobb hit Morgan for a two-point conversion to go up 14-10.
That lead was short lived, however, as Averett stormed back for a 13-play, 66-yard drive to reclaim the lead at 17-14 near the end of the third quarter.
The back-and-forth continued, and the Tigers quickly took the lead back, this time for good, with Morgan catching the pass from Cobb for a touchdown. Averett was able to block the extra point to keep within three at 20-17.
Hampden-Sydney's defense came up big on the next two possessions, forcing a turnover on downs and then a punt to allow the offense to run out the clock and take the win.
Of the Tigers' 339 yards of offense, 288 came through the air and 51 on the ground. Cobb had a strong outing, going 32-of-42 for 288 yards and two scores. Cam Johnson (Dillwyn, VA/Buckingham) led all receivers with 12 catches for 130 yards, while Morgan had 79 yards and a touchdown on nine catches. Carter Cunningham (Farmville, VA/Fuqua) had seven catches for 42 yards.
On the ground, DeMasi had nearly every carry with 18 touches for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Tigers allowed 228 yards on 175 rushing and just 53 passing. The team was led by freshman linebacker Brendan Weinberg (Apex, NC/Middle Creek) who had nine tackles, including two for loss, with one sack. Mallory recorded eight stops while Benjamin Carson (Winston-Salem, NC/Mount Tabor) and Chad Vanlandingham (Mechanicsville, VA/Hanover) each had seven tackles with a combined three stops in the backfield.
The Tigers will hit the road next week as they face the Captains of Christopher Newport at POMOCO Stadium on Saturday, September 9. Kickoff is set for 6:00 PM.