The Emporia State football team fell to the Washburn Ichabods on Saturday, 56-35. The match between the inter-state rivals marked the 106th meeting of the two teams, which currently ranks as the most played active rivalry in NCAA Division II.
The first few possession for the Hornets would prove counterproductive. A punt by sophomore computer science major Tyler Chilson was blocked and then returned for a touchdown by Washburn fullback Brad Haug. On the ensuing kickoff, freshman wide receiver and undecided major Shjuan Richardson fumbled the ball – Washburn recovered and in two plays scored from a touchdown pass from quarterback Dane Simoneau to wide receiver Brad Cole.
The score, however, was not indicative of how the rest of the first half of the game played out. The Hornets would battle back with key offensive efforts by sophomore quarterback and recreation major Sheldon Smith and senior wide receiver and social science major Danny McEvoy. Smith would hook up with McEvoy on a 68-yard juggling touchdown catch that would put the Hornets on the board with seven.
“The first one, I knew they threw a flag so I knew we were going to get something out of it. He (the defensive back) made a hell of a jump on the ball, tried to tip it from my hands and it just kind of bobbled forever,” McEvoy said. “I just caught it and cruised into the endzone.”
The scoring would continue for the Hornets. A 50-yard interception return by senior defensive back and sociology major Shaunquez Powell that set up another McEvoy score, a 23-yard touchdown run by junior running back and physical education major La’Darrian Page and a 4-yard touchdown run by Smith gave the Hornets the share of the lead at 28-all to end the first half.
“The second one (touchdown pass) was a gift from God,” McEvoy said. “I didn’t see it until the very last second.”
Powell took pride in his team’s effort to reduce the Ichabods’ lead.
“We fought back, that’s what I’m proud of the most,” Powell said.
The Hornets’ offensive would become stagnant in the third quarter, which proved to be quite the opposite for the Ichabods as they scored 28 unanswered points to bring the score to 56-28 in favor of Washburn.
“I wish we would have never had halftime,” said head coach Garrin Higgins. “I wish we could have said, ‘Hey look, let’s just line up and play on,’ but you have to have a halftime. We just came out and did not play very well that third quarter. That was a big momentum shifter when they scored…they scored in three plays to start the third quarter. And then we come back and we get a delay of game and then we put ourselves in a long yardage situation and we kind of lose a little gas in the third quarter. I think Sheldon got a little tired…I thought he played well, but he got a little bit tired there in the second half.”
The fourth quarter held the remaining 7 points for the Hornets, which occurred on a 2-yard touchdown run by junior running back and business major Kevin Smart, which was the result of a 13 play, 84-yard drive. The Hornets would successfully attempt an onside kick, but to no avail as time expired.
Powell hopes that next year’s team can learn from the trails and tribulations that the Hornets faced this season.
“Overall as a season I think we learned a lot, we’ve got a lot of young guys,” Powell said. “I hope this is a stepping stone in the foundation that we’ve built so we can learn from those mistakes.”
Smith led the game in passing and rushing for the Hornets, totaling over 312 yards of offense on 7 of 13 passing for 176 and 136 yards on 34 carries, with 4 total touchdowns. McEvoy led in receiving with 3 catches for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns.
McEvoy, who was among nine seniors who played their last game as a member of the Hornets, had some advice for the younger players on the team.
“They have to buy into Coach Higgins’ plan,” McEvoy said. “If they buy into it better than we did this year, they can do really good. There’s a lot of talent on that team, there’s no question. They can win a lot of games next year.”