HAMPDEN-SYDNEY — Averett football used several big offensive plays and got key defensive stops as the Cougars knocked off nonconference foe Hampden-Sydney 28-16 to open the 2019 season.
Averett senior running back Joshua Tapscott changed the momentum of the game with just under four minutes to play in the first half. Hampden- Sydney (0-1) had moved the ball 65 yards on four plays in a minute and 15 seconds that culminated with a 31-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers ahead 10-7. But Tapscott answered with a 99-yard touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff to put Averett (1-0) back in front 14-10 entering halftime.
Hampden-Sydney inched within 14-13 on a field goal to open the third quarter, but again Averett responded with another big play. Senior quarterback Jacob Wright found sophomore receiver Chase Nixon deep for a 50-yard touchdown, extending Averett’s lead to 21-13 with 9:03 left in the third quarter.
Following a big defensive stop, Averett’s offense continued to roll. Tapscott broke off a 52-yard run on second down to get the Cougars up to the Hampden-Sydney 30-yard line. Five plays later, Wright hit sophomore receiver Jarrod Mosby for a 15-yard touchdown to increase Averett’s lead to 28-13 with 2:22 left in the third.
Hampden-Sydney kicked a school-record 48-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to get back within 28-16, but Averett’s defense shut the Tigers down from there. With Hampden-Sydney driving, the Cougars got a big defensive stop on fourth down at the Averett 16-yard line with 5:46 to play.
Averett’s offense looked to run clock with a 12-point lead, but an errant throw was picked off by Hampden-Sydney at the Averett 30-yard line with 4:50 remaining. Yet, once again, the Cougars’ defense came up big. On the next play following the interception, senior linebacker Conner Showalter got a strip-sack, forcing and recovering the fumble at the Averett 40-yard line.
The Cougars ran out the clock on their ensuing possession before punting. Hampden-Sydney drove down into Averett territory in the final minutes. The Tigers’ final drive ended on fourth down as sophomore defensive end Joseph Ledbetter sacked Hampden-Sydney quarterback Clay Vick for a 9-yard loss.
Averett, the preseason favorite in the USA South Conference, ran out the final 1:29 to secure its second consecutive win over Hampden-Sydney and third over the past four meetings.
The Cougars’ defense totaled six sacks for a loss of 47 yards while limiting the Tigers to only 70 net rushing yards. Senior Octavius Ross led Averett with 11 tackles, while junior Nicolas Mintz had eight tackles. Showalter had seven tackles, and Ledbetter and senior Qualin Keaton each had six tackles. Ledbetter, last year’s USA South Defensive Rookie of the Year, had two of Averett’s six sacks.
Hampden-Sydney opened the game with a strong first drive deep into the red zone on its first possession. Averett’s defense, however, held the Tigers to a short field goal as Hampden-Sydney took an early 3-0 lead. The Cougars got on the board with a little over six minutes left in the second quarter when Wright found sophomore Delquan Bigelow for a 25-yard touchdown reception to make it 7-3. That kickstarted the scoring frenzy to end the half.
Wright finished with 19 completions on 28 attempts for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Tapscott led the rushing attack with 13 carries for 69 yards, while Nixon had a team-high five catches for 83 yards.
Averett returns home to play host to Randolph-Macon College at 6 p.m. Sept. 14.