In a Saturday morning slugfest between Division II heavyweights, Hodgson had Caravel on the ropes.
But it’s never easy to knock out the defending champs. The Silver Eagles missed with a couple of early punches, and the Buccaneers landed four haymakers in the second half. When the final bell rang, the only scorecard that mattered – the scoreboard – had Caravel ahead 14-7.
“We didn’t know what our identity was on this team. We really found out these kids have got heart in overcoming adversity,” Buccaneers coach John Reed said. “We challenged them at halftime, made some adjustments, and they made plays when they needed to.”
Two years ago, Caravel knocked out Hodgson with a 21-20 decision in the Division II semifinals. Last year, the Buccaneers beat the Silver Eagles 39-29 in the Division II championship game. In Saturday’s season opener, Caravel – again ranked first in D-II – left third-ranked Hodgson hoping for a playoff rematch.
“We hurt ourselves,” Silver Eagles coach Frank Moffett said. “Turnovers hurt us. … They had 14 points against us. We probably should have had 35 points.”
Hodgson recovered its first two fumbles but didn’t learn from those mistakes. The Silver Eagles drove to the Caravel 1 midway through the first quarter, only to see the Buccaneers’ Erich Heintzen jump on their next fumble.
Hodgson forced a punt and rumbled right back down to a first-and-goal at the Caravel 6. But a high shotgun snap rolled back 21 yards before Caravel’s Matt Boylan fell on it.
The Buccaneers’ Dennis Robinson intercepted a pass to quash the Silver Eagles’ next drive at the Caravel 45. Hodgson finally landed the only scoring blow of the first half – a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Ray Jones – to take a 7-0 lead with 5:52 left in the second quarter.
Caravel went to a neutral corner at halftime, then came out swinging in the second half. Fullback T. Jacob Shriner landed Haymaker No. 1 by finding a seam on a trap play and screaming 85 yards to tie it at 7 with 7:58 left in the third quarter.
“I give all the credit to my linemen. They did a great job,” Shriner said. “They gave me just enough of a hole to get out and break one.”
Haymaker No. 2 came early in the fourth. Facing third-and-9 from their own 26, quarterback Derrick Groomes lofted a bomb to Aaron Hudson. The halfback was 5 yards behind the last Hodgson defender and went 74 yards for the go-ahead score with 11:06 to play.
“Derrick and I have been together since sophomore year. We’ve been starting together, and we just have that chemistry,” Hudson said. “When I’m going down the field, he’s looking for me. I just knew once he threw it, the ball was going to come down in my hands.”
Haymaker No. 3 came from the big right hand of Lloyd Badson. The Buccaneers’ 6-foot-3, 243-pound defensive end batted down Jones’ fourth-and-3 pass at the Caravel 10 to end another Hodgson threat with 4:36 left.
The Silver Eagles would threaten again before Robinson landed Haymaker No. 4. Hodgson drove to first-and-goal at the Caravel 7, only to see the linebacker intercept Jones’ final pass at the goal line with 1:20 to play.
“We had a bunch of defensive pressure, and I was able to come up and make a nice read and get the pick,” Robinson said. “It was a great play. I saw the quarterback, I read his eyes the whole way and I jumped in front of the route.”
Shriner finished with 14 carries for 123 yards for Caravel (1-0). Rakeim Woodland led Hodgson (0-1) with 23 carries for 127 yards.