By Daniel Whitehead
BUENA VISTA, Va.—A powerful first half by the Southern Virginia University football team lifted the Knights to a 34-7 Homecoming victory over The Apprentice School Saturday afternoon at Robert E. Williams Field in Buena Vista, Va.
With the win, Southern Virginia improves to 4-2 on the season for its best start in program history while the Shipbuilders fall to 1-5 this season. The Knights jumped to a 27-0 lead by halftime and never looked back en route to the victory.
"I'm happy that we won our Homecoming game and happy that we beat a longtime opponent," said Southern Virginia head coach DeLane Fitzgerald. "While we did a lot of good things, we were sloppy throughout the game so I left with mixed feelings knowing we didn't play our best. We had a lot of penalties and mental mistakes, but we'll move forward and work on them. Overall, we did pretty well in all phases of the game so I can't be too upset.
"We had some standout performances today by Dakoda Winsor and Matthew Gregory on the defensive side and Tod Workman on the offensive side. I was proud of the way our defense played hard today and happy to see Tod have such a good game."
Southern Virginia earned 23 first downs to the Builders' 14 and gained 230 yards on the ground to Apprentice's 71. The Knights also had 215 total passing yards to 164 for Apprentice to outgain the Builders in total yards, 445-235.
After exchanging interceptions and following a shanked Apprentice punt that put Southern Virginia on the Builders' 20-yard line, the Knights scored midway through the first quarter on an 11-yard scamper by sophomore quarterback Andy Jones to cap a four-play, short-field scenario.
The Knights scored three touchdowns in the second quarter starting with an 11-yard rumble by fullback Nate Caldwell that put Southern Virginia up 13-0 at the 13:56 mark of the period. On Southern Virginia's next possession, receiver Dee Sanford pulled in an eight-yard fade route in the back right corner of the end zone for a 20-0 Knight advantage with 7:44 before the half. The ensuing Southern Virginia possession then resulted in receiver Chris Harper grabbing a 28-yard reception at the four-yard line and sneaking into the end zone for the Knights' commanding 27-0 lead at the break.
Midway through the third quarter, Sanford scored on a 59-yard catch-and-run for a 34-0 lead for Southern Virginia. The Builders would finish the game capping an eight-play, 72-yard drive with a two-yard TaMichael Fedd touchdown run with just 1:44 remaining in the game to prevent the Knights from earning a shutout.
Workman ended the game with 101 yards on 13 carries with Steven Scott picking up 50 yards on the ground on 15 carries for the Knights. Caldwell finished with 40 yards on 14 carries, with Jones picking up 31 yards on five quarterback keepers. Jones went 12-for-23 through the air for 215 yards and three touchdown passes. Sanford finished the game with 131 reception yards on seven receptions and two touchdowns, including the long of 59 yards. Harper finished with 56 reception yards on two catches.
Freshman Justin Gonzales led the team with nine tackles (6 solo, 3 assisted), including 1.5 tackles for loss and one pass breakup. Winsor finished with eight tackles (5 solo, 3 assisted), one sack for a loss of seven yards, 3.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Gregory earned two interceptions for the Knights for 22 return yards while also accounting for a solo tackle in the game. Zach Englert earned the other pick for the Knights.
The Knights next compete Saturday, Oct. 26, for a home game with Bluefield at Robert E. Williams Field at Parry McCluer High School. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.