Big plays, good defense help Averett football run past Hampden-Sydney in season opener

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DANVILLE, Va. — Averett University football used big plays on offense, defense and special teams to put away Hampden-Sydney College 33-14 in a season-opening win Sunday on Daly Field at Frank R. Campbell Stadium.

Senior Bradley Jefferson's thrilling 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown was the turning point for Averett (1-0) midway through the second quarter. Hampden-Sydney (0-1) had just scored a go-ahead touchdown on Alex Cobb's 5-yard pass to Major Morgan to put the Tigers back in front 14-12. On the ensuing kickoff, Jefferson took the kick 2-yards deep in his own end zone and weaved through traffic for 100 yards — which tied the school mark for longest return — to help put Averett ahead 19-14.

"When Jefferson returned the kick, that was a huge momentum boost for us," Averett fifth-year head coach Cleive Adams said.

After Averett's defense halted Hampden-Sydney's next offensive possession, the Cougars took advantage. Three plays later, junior quarterback Jacob Wright found senior wide receiver Rayvon Johnson, who cut through several defenders and raced to the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown to put Averett ahead 26-14 with 4:05 left in the first half.

Averett's defense slammed the door in the second half, shutting out Hampden-Sydney over the final two quarters. Although the Cougars had several big scoring plays called back for penalties, they did tack on another touchdown early in the fourth quarter on senior Connor Showalter's 41-yard interception return for a score.

The Cougars' defense forced three interceptions and two fumbles while limiting the Tigers to only 44 yards on the ground and 356 yards through the air.

"Hampden-Sydney's going to throw the ball," Adams said. "If you allow them to throw and run, it's going to be a tough day. If you can keep those guys under 400 yards throwing the football, you're doing something."

Hampden-Sydney took a 7-0 lead early on the Tigers' first drive. Cobb snuck in a 1-yard touchdown less than five minutes into the game. Yet, Averett answered on is first drive, going 83 yards on seven plays to get on the board with senior Sean Bowman's 4-yard rushing touchdown.

Wright, who passed for 165 yards and ran for 93 yards, put Averett ahead 12-7 with a 22-yard rushing touchdown with 4:20 left in the first quarter. That lead held until Morgan's touchdown catch midway through the second quarter.

Bowman led the Cougars' attack on the ground with 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to move within 291 yards of the program's career rushing record. Senior running back Paul Wiles added 43 yards on five carries for the Cougars. Johnson caught eight passes for 124 yards and a touchdown to lead the receivers.

Senior linebacker Dejon Brooks, a 2018 D3football.com Preseason All-America Third Team selection, totaled 15 tackles, the most by a Cougar since Brooks totaled 15 last season against Hampden-Sydney. He also added one sack to get him within two of tying the program record. Senior cornerback Ethan Williams added nine tackles and two pass breakups and senior Octavius Ross had seven take-downs. Jefferson, who had the big special teams play, added six tackles, four pass breakups and an interception.

Sunday's game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but severe thunderstorms forced the teams to postpone the game a day.

​​​​​​​Averett travels to play non-conference foe Randolph-Macon College on Saturday in Ashland, Virginia.

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