EMORY, Va. – Football fans around the Old Dominion Athletic Conference are accustomed to circus catches from Emory & Henry receiver Derrick Yates.
In Saturday’s ODAC matchup against the Hampden-Sydney Tigers, the 6-foot-6 senior emerged as the ringmaster in a 56-17 victory for the Wasps.
With 13 receptions for 265 yards, Yates set a new single-game school standard for yardage that ranks fifth in ODAC history.
“The coaches said they were going to come to me early and often, and things just worked out,” Yates said.
The Tigers placed two defensive backs on Yates part of the afternoon, but the former Abingdon High School standout was still able to work his magic.
“We just did some things that messed with their defense and our coaches put me in position to make plays,” Yates said.
After the Wasps (2-2, 1-1) took a 28-3 lead into halftime, Yates ended any suspense by making three TD grabs in the second half.
“Derrick is as good as any receiver in the country, and he can make life hard on any defense,” E&H coach Curt Newsome said.
Junior quarterback Hunter Taylor added to the misery index for the Tigers (1-4, 0-3) by completing 26 of 35 attempts for 391 yards and five scores. After tricking the H-SC secondary with pump fakes and scrambles, Taylor used a quick release on his high-velocity throws.
Gunner Griffith, a 5-11 junior from Sullivan East, caught seven passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns. Griffith also authored the play of the day as he somehow snared a pass with one hand on a 14-yard TD reception in the second quarter.
“I didn’t anticipate that to happen, but I was prepared to make the play and Hunter put the ball exactly where it needed to be,” Griffith said. “It’s easy to look good when Hunter is putting the ball out there with his strong arm.”
While Yates confounded defenders with his leaping ability, instincts and sure hands, the Wasps were able to keep the H-SC defense off-balance by establishing a running attack.
E&H rushed for a season-high 201 yards from its RPO (Run-Pass Option) attack. Five-foot-nine freshman T.J. Tester accounted for 84 yards on 14 carries while rugged sophomore Robert Henesey (5-7, 220) excelled in the role of blocking back.
“Teams hadn’t been able to run the ball against (H-SC) and our running game opened up some things for us,” Newsome said. “I was scared to death coming in today because Sydney beat us [56-27] last year and they had nine starters back on offense.”
Not much went right for the Tigers on this day. Major Morgan, a 6-5 All-American candidate at receiver, failed to catch a pass until the 3:40 mark of the third quarter and first-year quarterback Clay Vick threw his 14th interception of the season.
“This is new for me,” H-SC coach Marty Favret said. “We’re really searching and I have to get our kids to believe they can win on the road. I don’t know if they felt that today.”
Favret offered a salute to Yates.
“We’re young in the secondary and he put on a clinic,” Favret said. “It was very humbling, but Yates is a terrific player and he seems like a really good kid.”
Sophomore linebacker Ivan Phillips, who missed last week’s game due to injury, led E&H Saturday with nine tackles while senior end Da’von Keith earned his seventh sack in the past two games.
“I hope [Keith] is finally going to graduate because it feels like we’ve been playing against him for seven years,” Favret said. “Da’von is a Division I talent playing at the Division III level, and he was very destructive today.”
Yates is another E&H player with the frame and fundamentals to compete at a higher level. True to his humble personality, Yates said he had no idea that he was on a record-setting pace Saturday.
“I was just trying to play and get a win,” Yates said. “Today was probably one of the most fun times I’ve ever had playing football.”
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