BUENA VISTA, Va. The annual rivalry game against the Apprentice School Shipbuilders takes place again for the Southern Virginia University football team, when they host the Builders at Parry McCluer High School, Oct. 23. The teams have annually played each other since the inception of SVU's program in 2003. The teams met last year in the Shriner's Oyster Bowl, and recorded the first win over the builders in program history, with a 14-10 victory. SVU will be coming off a disappointing loss to the Wesley Wolverines, as the Knights could not find an answer for the running game of the #3 ranked NCAA D.III team in the country. Apprentice will come in to the game well rested, as they had a bye week last week.
The Builders have struggled this season, posting a solitary 9-7 win against Greensboro. Apprentice has found things difficult from the offensive end, as they are averaging only 16-yards per game on the ground. The air attack has helped prop up the ground game, as the Builders are averaging 171.0-yards in the passing game. Bryan Shahlamian leads the way for the Builders through the air, and his favorite target has been Bryan Cain who has pulled in 34-catches for 468-yards and four touchdowns. Defensively, Apprentice has struggled in stopping offenses, as they have surrendered an average of 326.7-yards per game.
Both teams will be recovering from overwhelming losses to Wesley. The Knights faced off against the Wolverines last week, falling 52-3, while Apprentice played the team the week prior, and fell 64-7. In both games, the visitors scored the final points of the game, and scored with the last two minutes of the game to avoid being shutout. Apprentice was able to put a touchdown up on the board, while SVU needed to content itself with a field goal. Both the Knights and The Builders were held to under 100-yards of total offense against the Wolverines, while the Wesley offensive juggernaut ran past the two teams.
The game against Apprentice represents SVU's rivalry game. The two have consistently faced off since the inception of the SVU program, and the two programs have brought passionate competition to the games. Apprentice has gotten the best of the Knights, as the Builders have won every game since 2003 except for last year's Oyster bowl win for the Knights.
The game will be the first time since the 2005 season that the teams will face off at Parry McCluer High School. SVU hosted the Builders in 2007, but the game was held at Amherst High School. The past two seasons have seen the game be the Oyster Bowl game held in Newport News, VA.
Despite the struggle for the Knights against Wesley, SVU has put together a solid season for DeLane Fitzgerald in his second season. The wins for the Knights against Ferrum and Guilford were program firsts, and the team has seen record breaking individual performances which include the longest interception return for touchdown (70-yards, Fine Itaaehau), a blocked PAT returned for touchback (98-yards, Chad John), and four games with a blocked kick (Dylan Dikes-3, Byron Tillery-1). The season has also seen history in the making, as Matt Mellor marches to the all-time tackles record for SVU football.
Offensively, Zach Garner has started to provide a consistent base for the Knights in the passing game, as well as directing the offense. Garner has thrown for 1,012-yards, and has 10-touchdown passes, and is averaging 126.5-yards per game. Brick Wilce has become Garner's favored receiver, and has pulled in 26-catches for 311-yards, and 5-touchdowns. On the defensive end, Mellor leads the ay with 72-total tackles, with Tommy Davidson adding 61.
Mellor racked up 9-tackles against the wolverines, and now stands at 261-tackles for his career. With two tackles against the builders, Mellor will become the all-time leader in tackles for the Knights. Shea Owens currently holds the record at 262.
At 3-5, the Knights have a chance to make history for the program. A win against Apprentice would be the first time they have recorded two wins against the Builders. More importantly, it would put the team in position to finish out the season with three straight wins, and another 6-5 season, which would be the second winning season in program history.