ASHLAND, Va. – Bridgewater jumped out to a 29-6 lead behind an opportunistic defense and a record-setting performance from wide receiver Tyler Beiler before holding off a late Randolph-Macon rally to defeat the Yellow Jackets by a 29-26 tally at Day Field.
With the win, Bridgewater ended a three-game skid against the Yellow Jackets.
Beiler hauled in seven passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns to snap the single-game receiving record by one yard.
Bridgewater's offense struggled early on, with two three-and-outs to open the game, but the defense was stout, holding the conference's leading scoring offense off of the scoreboard early.
At the mid-way point in the first stanza, the Eagles got rolling, when quarterback Hagan Driskell (Ruther Glen, Va./Caroline) connected with Beiler to move Bridgewater into Randolph-Macon territory. Three plays later, the Eagles moved into scoring position on a McKenzie run, before an 18-yard Jordan Thacker field goal gave Bridgewater a 3-0 lead with 3:25 to play in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Randolph-Macon moved into Bridgewater territory before a huge stop by the defense forced a turnover on downs, keeping the Eagles ahead 3-0.
Bridgewater answered with a 70-yard strike from Driskell to Beiler to put the Eagles ahead 10-0 with 10:19 to play in the opening half.
Randolph-Macon immediately answered when the Yellow Jackets settled for a field goal with 4:27 to play in the first half to chip the Bridgewater lead to 10-3.
With 3:09 to play in the first half, Bridgewater tacked another touchdown on the board when Driskell again hit Beiler, this time from 78 yards out, to build a 16-3 advantage.
On the following Randolph-Macon drive, Stephen Howard (Afton, Va./Nelson County) picked off a screen pass and returned it 32 yards to the endzone to put the Eagles up 23-3.
Randolph-Macon moved the ball inside the Bridgewater five with under a minute left but another Bridgewater goal-line stand kept the score at 23-3 as the game headed to the intermission.
Out of the halftime break, the Yellow Jackets marched downfield but settled for another field goal to chip the lead to 23-6.
Following a Bridgewater turnover on downs, the defense against came up with a huge turnover when Brandon Mitchell returned an interception to the endzone to put Bridgewater ahead 29-6 after the PAT failed.
Randolph-Macon again moved into the Bridgewater redzone, but a defensive hold kept the Yellow Jackets off of the scoreboard, giving the Eagles the ball back.
Bridgewater committed its first miscue of the day on its next possession when a McKenzie fumble gave Randolph-Macon the ball in Eagles territory. The Yellow Jackets responded with a 42 yard run from Drake Saunders to cut the lead to 29-12. The two-point conversion attempt failed, keeping the margin at 17 as the game entered the final quarter.
Randolph-Macon barreled downfield again on its first possession of the final quarter to cut the Bridgewater lead to a 29-19 margin when Scruggs scored from 17 yards out with 14 and change remaining.
Following an ineffective drive from both teams, Randolph-Macon cut the lead to three points when a 20 yard completion went to the endzone to bridge the gap to 29-26 with 3:56 remaining.
Bridgewater got a first down on the following drive but couldn't drain the clock, giving the Yellow Jackets the ball back with 2:12 to play and 90 yards to go.
On the first play of the drive, senior Scottie Littles (Norfolk, Va./Landstown) picked off a Greg Petrohovich pass to give the Eagles the ball back inside the Randolph-Macon redzone.
Bridgewater tried to drain the clock out but Randolph-Macon held the Eagles out of the endzone to get the ball back with 25 ticks remaining.
Following an incomplete pass on first down, a sack in the endzone by Joel Francis (Woodbridge, Va./Freeedom) forced a safety putting Bridgewater ahead 31-26.
Randolph-Macon had one more opportunity, but its onside kick attempt was recovered by up-back Damien Ward (Chesterfield, Va./Louisa County) to seal the deal, snapping a three-game skid against the Yellow Jackets.
On the ground, Darrin McKenzie (Rustburg, Va./Brookville) led the way with 65 yards in 17 carries.
Through the air, Driskell ended the day 8-of-15 for 221 yards and a pair of scores.
On the receiving end, Beiler's record setting day came on seven catches, two of which went the distance. Beiler had receptions of 70 and 78 yards on the day. The Ronks, Pa. native also smashed the single season receiving record, which now stands at 1,217 yards with one game remaining.
Defensively, the Eagles outscored the offense. The defensive unit had three players in double-figures with Littles leading the way with 15 stops, including a dozen solo tackles. Littles' 15-tackle output was the highest for a Bridgewater player since Ward's 17 tackles against the Yellow Jackets in 2007. The Norfolk,Va. native also intercepted a pass in the waning moments of the game.,
T.J. Montague (Reston, Va./South Lakes) chipped in 13 tackles, while defensive back Jeff Mehlhaff (Louisa, Va./Louisa County) recorded a career-high 11 tackles.
Bridgewater's defense recorded three interceptions, including two that were returned to the endzone.
Randolph-Macon was led on the ground by Thaddeus Scruggs' 140 yards on 34 carries. Saunders also chipped in 118 yards for the Yellow Jackets rushing offense.
Through the air, the Yellow Jackets struggled. Starting quarterback Luke Sellers was 8-of-24 for 135 yards and a pair of interceptions, which were returned to the endzone. Petrohovich was 3-of-7 for 41 yards in relief of Sellers.
Wide receiver Earl Peoples led the way for Randolph-Macon with four catches for 86 yards.
The Yellow Jackets ran off 95 plays on the day, to outgain Bridgewater by a 456-to-308 tally. Randolph-Macon was 7-of-18 on third down, while holding the Eagles to just 1-of-11 on third down.
Bridgewater is back in action next Saturday when it wraps up the regular season at Catholic. Action from the nation's capitol is slated for a 1:00 p.m. start.