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Lycoming struggles on offense, defense in opener

September 1, 2012 - Mitch Rupert

The Lycoming defense made a beeline for the benches, the frustration in their play beginning to grow, the prospects for a win slipping through their fingers one play at a time.

Defensive tackle Roger Jayne stood in the middle of the Warriors’ defensive unit and began shouting at his teammates. The Warriors had given up two touchdowns in two possessions to start the second half Saturday at David Person Field and quickly went from trailing by eight points to trailing by 22.

Jayne was screaming at the top of his lungs – his comments were clear all the way up in the press box – for his teammates to find an extra gear that was going to help turn things around. And when he finished and sat down, junior defensive tackle Dwight Hentz took over the screaming duties.

It turned out to be for naught. A Lycoming defense returning eight starters from last year’s No 3-ranked unit in the country surrendered 503 yards of offense to Brockport in the season opener. The offense didn’t fare much better, rushing for just 31 yards in a 24-2 loss.

It was a loss that defied what this Lycoming football team was supposed to be about. The defense allowed 179 rushing yards and 324 passing yards. It was a unit that couldn’t get off the field on third down. All three were staples of what made the Lycoming defense so dangerous a year ago with primarily the same personnel.

“Very disappointing. Coming in we had a view of winning the game and shutting them down,” said Lycoming middle linebacker Kabongo Bukasa, who led the team with 10 tackles. “It’s very disappointing coming in here and just getting our (butt) kicked. Give them a lot of credit for that because they prepared pretty well.”

Jayne and Hentz were echoing Bukasa’s thoughts as they shared them with the rest of their teammates. And although the Warriors pitched a shutout following the defensive linemen’s rant, it was afar too late.

Brockport’s 19-play drive in the first quarter set the tone for the Golden Eagles. They ran the ball when they wanted to and where they wanted to.

That opened up the opportunity for quarterback Joe Scibilia to throw the ball to windows that were wide open all over the field. The three-year starter completed 21 of 34 passes for 324 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Even though that 19-play drive which covered 72 yards resulted in just three points, it was a window into the future for Brockport’s offense.

“We felt confident after the first drive,” Scibilia said. “We should have scored on every drive. That’s what (offensive coordinator Jason) Mangone expects out of us.”

Brockport set up its schemes in its spread offense to try and getting running backs Tyrone Nichols and Shireem Cobb to the perimeter. The 212-pound Nichols and the 193-pound Cobb had the quickness to get to the corner, and the blocking from a big offensive line to turn it upfield for positive yards.

“We thought we could get the edge,” Brockport head coach Rocco Salomone said. “We know they like to run a lot of man coverage, so you can run some guys off there and run for the boundaries a bit.” “They were stretching the field a lot. They were pulling and getting our linebackers with the guards,” Bukasa said. “We just have to pursue to the ball. We’ve got to get there.”

Despite all the struggles the Warriors had with Brockport’s offense, it trailed just 10-2 at halftime, and Lycoming was receiving the ball in the second half. But things never got better for the Warriors defense or offense.

Lycoming went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the second half, and Brockport scored on its first two possessions of the second half after forcing punts. The Golden Eagles’ Andrew Mrozek converted a thrid-and-9 with a one-handed catch down the sideline with Kody Flail blanketed over the receiver in coverage.

Two plays later, Jake Spalik found a hole in the Warriors’ coverage to catch a 15-yard touchdown pass from Scibilia to push the lead to 17-2. It was the corner route like the one Spalik ran that burned the Warriors for big plays much of the day.

“They play a lot of cover 2, so we’re hoping the corner stays and we can hit that corner route above him,” Scibilia said. “That’s just one of our base plays.”

Lycoming again went three-and-out after the Spalik home run thanks to an illegal touching penalty when Matt Atkinson stepped out of bounds and came back in to catch a pass. The call, one of 11 penalties for 83 yards for the Warriors, negated what would have been a 42-yard gain on third-and-11.

It took Brockport just seven plays to push its lead to 22 thanks to a 39-yard pass play to Mrozek on another break down in the Warriors’ secondary. Nichols capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run for a 24-2 lead.

“We really needed to come out of the locker room, and when the opportunity presents itself, we have to be able to capitalize, and we absolutely did not,” Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. “They came out and won the third quarter and that’s the difference in the game.”

“Once they got up three scores, there’s a sense of urgency,” Jenny said. “They come out in the second half and put up two touchdowns and we have two three-and-outs. That was pretty much the difference in the ball game.”

Lycoming was forced to throw the football 42 times yesterday, despite Jenny making his first career start. It was mainly because the Warriors averaged just 1.7 yards per carry. Parker Showers gained just 8 yards on five carries. Craig Needhammer added just 19 yards on six carries. And in a very limited role as the Wildcat offense triggerman, Matt Atkinson had a pair of carries for 9 yards.

Lycoming recorded just two first downs on the ground yesterday. And when Brockport effectively took away the run, its defense teed off on Jenny. He was forced to do his best Fran Tarkenton impression in the pocket at times, scrambling just to find time to be able to throw the ball. He managed to complete 23 passes for 205 yards, both of which were career highs.

“We knew we couldn’t let him stand there because he has good receivers and you knew he’d make plays if you just let him stand there,” Salomone said. “We knew we had to make sure we were going to pressure him.”

“We just struggled to run the football. Their middle linebacker made a lot of plays,” Clark said. “Both groups (Lycoming’s offensive line and Brockport’s defensive line) were inexperienced. Their guys just played better than our guys.

“They were better offensively and defensively than us. You have to be able to win two of three phases to win a game, and they did.”


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