Knights Can't Hold Early Lead, Fall to Dragons on Alumni Day

Written by Chris Pendleton and Sean Dahlin

BUENA VISTA, Va.—The Southern Virginia University football team suffered a heartbreaking loss during Saturday's home Alumni Game as Virginia University of Lynchburg took its first lead of the day on the game's final play—the Dragon's quarterback Tyler Harris scrambled 4 yards into the end zone as time expired—to earn a 19-16 win over the Knights.

Trailing 16-13 with only 2:44 remaining in regulation, Virginia-Lynchburg (1-3) strung together its longest drive of the game, going 85 yards in 15 plays for the game-winning touchdown.

"We weren't able to finish the game," said fourth-year Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald. "We fought and battled the majority of the time, but our lack of execution down the stretch allowed Virginia-Lynchburg to hang around and steal the win."

Southern Virginia took a commanding 16-0 lead late in the third quarter when sophomore running back Jerry Washington (Gloucester, Va.) capped a 70-yard, 10-play drive with a 1-yard trot into the end zone. But despite Virginia-Lynchburg's large deficit and lack of offensive success to that point, the Dragons responded with three touchdowns in the final 16:50 of regulation on route to an unlikely comeback victory.

"It's difficult to lose after you outplay your opponent for three solid quarters the way we did today," said Fitzgerald. "But this was a great learning experience that will make us better."

After gaining only 91 yards in the first half, Virginia-Lynchburg exploded for 375 second-half yards, including three offensive touchdowns—the Dragons had scored only one offensive touchdown through their first 14 quarters this season. Virginia-Lynchburg running back Macha Shinhoster contributed with two rushing touchdowns and a team-leading 135 yards on 24 carries.

Southern Virginia outgained Virginia-Lynchburg 139-118 on the ground, but the visiting Dragons had 348 passing yards—highlighted by Harris' 297 yards in the air—compared to 39 passing yards for the Knights.

Sophomore quarterback Mitch Stevenson (Muskogee, Okla.) was Southern Virginia's leading rusher on the afternoon with 60 total yards on 5 attempts, including a thrilling 58-yard touchdown scramble that put the Knights up 9-0 with just over three minutes remaining before halftime. Stevenson finished 4-for-15 on passing attempts for 34 yards and an interception.

Dakoda Winsor (Richland, Wash.) was stellar at the middle linebacker position for Southern Virginia recording 15 total tackles—9 solo and 6 assists. Winsor also recorded a saftey early in the second period tackling Dragons Shinhoster in his own end zone putting the Knights up 2-0 with 12:21 left before intermission.

Free safety Matt Gregory (Staunton, Va.) also had 15 tackles—3 solo and 12 assists—on the day for Southern Virginia, as well as a blocked field goal on a Virginia-Lynchburg attempt from 21-yards out with 9:15 left in the fourth quarter.

Southern Virginia has a short week to prepare for its upcoming matchup with USCAA-rival The Apprentice School. The Knights and Shipbuilders have played every year since Southern Virginia began its football program in 2003 with Apprentice leading the series 8-1.

This year, Southern Virginia will take on Apprentice at a neutral site—Salem Football Stadium in Salem, Va.—on Friday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. 

Watch live video of the tenth annual game between Southern Virginia and Apprentice on the Knights' online broadcast portal.