Story and photo courtesy of Lycoming Athletics
READING, Pa. – Down by two touchdowns early in the second quarter, the Lycoming College football team’s offense came alive, scoring 29 unanswered points to come-from-behind and down Albright, 29-14, in the Pretzel Bowl at Gene L. Shirk Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 22.
The Warrior defense, after allowing the Lions to run 23 plays through the game’s first 16 minutes, forced four turnovers and allowed just two Albright drives in the last 46 minutes to go on for more than four plays. In the process, the Warriors (3-1 overall, 3-0 MAC) knocked off their second straight undefeated opponent in the Lions (3-1 overall, 2-1 MAC).
“We settled down,” Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. “Nobody panicked on our side, even though they are a good team. They had a good plan offensively and defensively, but we started to have a bit of success and cut it to one score. Really, after that, from the second quarter on, I think we controlled the football game.”
Junior Kabongo Bukasa (Sharon Hill, Pa./Academy Park) was named Lycoming’s Pretzel Bowl MVP, as he made six tackles and forced a fumble from behind. Albright’s Nick Gjoni earned the Lions’ Pretzel Bowl MVP, as he made six tackles, including four for a loss, and he forced one fumble.
Down 14-0, the Warriors went on a long 14-play drive that ate 7:30 in the second quarter, as both senior running back Parker Showers (Aspers, Pa./Biglerville) and sophomore quarterback Tyler Jenny (Coalport, Pa./Glendale) ran for first downs to get the ball into Albright’s territory. Junior Matt Atkinson (Media, Pa./Penncrest) added another first down run before a 14-yard rush from Showers got the ball to the 16-yard line. Without even passing once, the Warriors found the end zone five plays later when sophomore Craig Needhammer (Lansdale, Pa./North Penn) found paydirt from one-yard out.
After a botched reverse on the kickoff, the Lions got the ball at the one-yard line. Four plays later, the Warriors had to punt from the four-yard line, giving Lycoming the ball at the Albright 45-yard line with 4:23 left in the quarter.
On the next drive, the Warriors mixed rushes with three shots passes that netted 21 yards before a second-and-goal from the five where Jenny found senior Jarrin Campman (Clearfield, Pa./Clearfield Area) with 22 seconds left in the half. However, the Warriors didn’t convert the extra point, heading into the break, down 14-13.
In the third quarter, the Warriors opened the quarter with a 14-play drive that took up more than half the quarter, but a fumble on fourth down at the Albright 14-yard line ended the quarter. However, just three plays later, sophomore Tanner Troutman (Hegins, Pa./Tri-Valley) made the first of three big interceptions for the Warriors, picking off a pass at the Albright 20-yard line and returning it to the two. Three plays later, Jenny found Campman again, giving Lycoming a 19-14 lead.
Sophomore Kyle Sullivan (Coatesville, Pa./Bishop Shanahan) ended the next Albright drive with a diving pick at the Lycoming 42-yard line, before each team traded a pair of punts, which gave Lycoming the ball at the 49-yard line with 12:05 left. The Warriors drove the ball for the next five minutes, a stretch of 29 yards, setting up a 39-yard field goal from junior Zack Czap (Philipsburg, Pa./Philipsburg-Osceola), the second-longest field goal of his career.
Senior Matt Talerico (Moosic, Pa./Riverside) ended the next Albright drive on the first play, intercepting a pass and returning it 28 yards to the two-yard line, where Showers found paydirt on the first play of the Lycoming drive, making it 29-14.
“The secondary guys made a couple nice plays on the ball,” Clark said. “Kabongo made a great play from behind to force a fumble. It was a great overall effort.”
From there, the Warriors kept the ball on the ground and forced the Lions to keep the ball in the air, where they completed just 5-of-12 passes in the last half of the second quarter.
The Lions jumped out to the early lead with scores on two of its first three possessions, with T.J. Luddy finding Scott Pillar for an 11-yard score with 4:00 left in the first and Luddy hitting Eric Wade for a five-yard score with 14:10 left in the second quarter when the Warriors ignited their comeback.
Showers finished with 70 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, as the Warriors ground up 168 yards of rushing offense to help eat more than 35:30 in clock. Needhammer added 23 carries for 40 yards and a score and Atkinson posted five carries for 38 yards.
Jenny completed 11-of-17 passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once, but had no turnovers. Campman led the receivers, posting five catches for 30 yards and two scores. Sophomore John Sibel (Morrisville, Pa./Pennsbury) added three catches for 24 yards.
Sophomore Braden Zeiner (Allentown, Pa./Whitehall) finished with five tackles, 0.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss and senior Nate Oropollo (Aldan, Pa./Cardinal O’Hara) added four stops, 1.0 for loss, and he added a fourth-quarter fumble recovers. Junior Dwight Hentz (Halifax, Pa./Halifax) added three stops, two for a loss and a sack. Junior C.J. Arhontakis (West Grove, Pa./Avon Grove) added a sack.
Albright managed just 40 yards rushing on 23 carries, led by Zach Groff, who posted six carries for 14 yards. Luddy posted 12-of-18 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns, but he was sacked three times and picked off three times. Caleb Shilko posted five catches for 69 yards and Pillar also added five catches for 67 yards and a score.
Levi Myers led the Lions with 11 tackles and Matthew Hnatiuk posted 10. Ryan Ott also notched eight tackles.
The Warriors now head back to Lycoming for a Family Weekend showdown with King’s on Saturday, Sept. 29, at David Person Field. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.