By ROB WITHAM
H-P Sports Correspondent
Fifty-five years ago, Vince Lombardi, considered by some to be the greatest football coach of all-time, co-wrote a book entitled, “Run To Daylight”, which chronicled a complete week of team preparation for his Green Bay Packers prior to a crucial game against the rival Detroit Lions. There was over two hundred pages of detail with one goal in mind: be ready.
After losing their previous three encounters against Emory and Henry, it would not be surprisingly to discover some time in the future that Randolph-Macon head coach Pedro Arruza and his staff likely created enough notes, reminders, and such in preparation for Saturday’s home encounter with the Wasps to fill two hundred pages or more.
Whether it was planned, or not, the end result of the team’s preparation borrowed from Lombardi’s book title, as the Yellow Jackets ran to daylight to the tune of 303 yards and six trips to the end zone as Randolph-Macon used a 28-0 run over a 10:49 span in the first half to build a 28-3 lead en route to a dominating 52-29 victory over Emory and Henry to improve to 2-1 in Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) play, and 4-2 overall.
It was the second week in a row where the running game fueled the Yellow Jackets, this time using multiple backs to find holes and big yardage, and the second straight game where Randolph-Macon put 52 points on the scoreboard.
“We still have a long ways to go, but we’re getting better,” Arruza said following the win. “The effort was there, it’s been there since the start of the year, and I knew that once the execution caught up, we’d be okay.”
The rushing attack begins with detail. Blocking schemes and technique, where arms are positioned, what angle your body should take for an advantage, that and much more so that the guy behind you, the ball carrier, finds just enough room to run for daylight.
Tre Frederick was first to do so. After the opening Emory and Henry drive yielded a field goal, Frederick ran for 41 yards in a 78-yard drive, capping it with a seven-yard run to paydirt to give Randolph-Macon a lead they’d never relinquish at 7-3 with 5:53 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Burke Estes did his part to keep the Wasp defense on its heels, completing a 23-yard pass to Christian Redman to put the Yellow Jackets in the red zone.
When the Wasps advanced deep in Yellow Jacket territory on their next drive, it was the defense who separated Emory and Henry from daylight. On a fourth down and two at the Yellow Jacket 29, the Wasps faked a jet sweep, quarterback Hunter Taylor looking to keep the ball and trek up the middle. Linebacker Yonis Blanco would have none of that, leading a push that gave Taylor nowhere to run, and a two-yard loss back to the 31.
After an 18-yard Eric Hoy run, Estes rolled right with everyone but Frederick, stopped, looked left, and hit the tailback, who earned 45 of the 52 yards on the reception after the catch, racing down the left sideline for his third touchdown reception of the season and a 14-3 lead. Then, after a bad snap on fourth down forced Emory and Henry punter Garrett Morgan (Atlee) to just fall on the ball at his own ten, the Yellow Jackets used three running plays to find the goal line, Hoy going in from a yard out on the first play of the second quarter. It was 21-3 Yellow Jackets, and they never looked back.
For Randolph-Macon’s rushing attack, the wealth was shared. JP Redmond entered on the next offensive series and led a seven-play, 77-yard drive, earning 51 of those yards, 34 on a touchdown gallop behind the Wasps defense for a 28-3 lead at 10:05 to the half. Emory and Henry (1-2, 2-4) finally answered with a touchdown of their own, but the Yellow Jackets matched it quickly on another one-yard Hoy run. The masterpiece of this drive was a misdirection pass play that left tight end Sam Tanner (Lee-Davis) all alone, Estes hitting him for a 22-yard reception to get to midfield.
The Wasps had some early success with their passing game, especially on inside slants set up by the read option. The Randolph-Macon secondary, however, torched for 559 yards of passing by Shenandoah the last time they played at home, were improved. The biggest negative for the Yellow Jackets came when sophomore defensive back Calvin Whitehead went down in the second half with an injury and had to be carted back to the locker room. There is no word on his condition or his availability to the Yellow Jackets going forward.
Randolph-Macon went 10-for-13 in third down plays and had four different players in Hoy, Frederick, Redmond and Jordan Foster score rushing touchdowns. Estes finished the day 16-of-17 for 205 yards and the touchdown toss to Frederick. Redmond led all rushers with 156 yards, while Hoy had 71 and Frederick 42.
“Our kids were really aggressive after that first series, and it showed up in a lot of ways,” Arruza said. “I made a point going into this game that we had to play to win. We couldn’t just sit back and let things happen.”
The Yellow Jackets are second in the ODAC in rushing, averaging 231.2 yards per game, only behind Washington and Lee, who run for an average of 422.7 yards a contest. But add the Yellow Jacket passing game, throwing for nearly 240 yards per game, and the numbers show both ends of the offense are holding up their end of the responsibility.
They’ll need to continue to execute, and put up points, first when they travel to Newport News Saturday for their final non-ODAC game at The Apprentice School, then when they return to Day Field for a crucial conference battle with Washington and Lee on Homecoming October 28th.
Shenandoah is in first place in the ODAC at 3-0, Hampden-Sydney is next at 2-0, followed by Randolph-Macon at 2-1 and Washington and Lee at 1-1. Trying to repeat as ODAC champions, the Yellow Jackets have really no room for error, needing to win their final three conference games and hope Shenandoah falters twice before the season concludes.
But nothing matters more to Arruza and the Yellow Jackets than the chapters of preparation they are writing at this hour to get ready for a new opponent, a different location, an unknown test, come Saturday in Newport News. And, if they execute, they’ll run to daylight again.