The clichs flew left and right at Lycoming football media day earlier this month.
We're not looking past our first game
We're going to take it one game at a time
We're going to worry about Brockport and we'll worry about everyone else after that
This Warrior football team is a veteran football team. They understand what kind of position their schedule puts them in. They're not pleading ignorance as to who their Week 2 opponent is.
In case you didn't know, it's Delaware Valley.
But they understand there's plenty more work that needs to be done before they ever get to that point. The first couple weeks of the Lycoming football season could very well determine whether October and November are just going to be months where the team is playing out the remainder of its schedule, or if it's fighting for a playoff spot.
That stretch of strong opponents starts this afternoon at David Person Field where the Warriors will play their first official game on its newly turfed field against Brockport in the MAC/NJAC Challenge.
Lycoming knows all about opening the season with tough opponents having played Rowan in each of the last two seasons, including last year when they upset the ranked Profs in the season opener at Person Field. So there's a preparedness that's coming with Saturday's season opener. There's an understanding that they can't afford to let any opportunity to get a win slip by.
There's no better evidence of that that last year when the Warriors finished 8-2 with their two losses coming by a combined 10 points to Widener and Delaware Valley, and that was not good enough to qualify for the NCAA playoffs.
"Eight and two is not good enough," said Lycoming quarterback Zach Klinger, who will miss today's game with a concussion. "It doesn't get us a MAC championship. It doesn't get us a playoff berth, it doesn't really get us anything. It's the same as being 2-8 in our eyes because it doesn't really mean anything."
So when Brockport comes to Williamsport, the Warriors must be ready to go, even if they are without their starting quarterback. The first four weeks of the season could be make or break for Lycoming's playoff hopes with games against Brockport, Del. Val., Lebanon Valley and Albright.
Lycoming, with all its clichs, said all the right things during media day earlier this month about the focus purely being on the season opener. But don't think there's not a big star hanging next to Delaware Valley on the schedule. The Warriors had an opportunity to at least clinch a share of the MAC title a year ago with a win at home against the Aggies, but gave up a late fourth-quarter touchdown in a seven-point loss that kept them out of the NCAA playoffs.
"We're a pretty good team. If we're healthy and we play the way we're supposed to play, I don't think there's a team on the schedule we can't beat," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "How well we perform and how healthy we are will determine our record at the end of the year."
Don't let the numbers fool you, though. Brockport could be a tough challenge this weekend even coming off a 3-7 season. Brockport averaged a league-high 432.8 yards of offense per game last year, including 252.6 passing yards per game. The Golden Eagles were also third in the league averaging 29.1 points per game.
So there's a discernable reason Lycoming can't afford to look past its opening weekend game toward the huge MAC showdown with Delaware Valley.
"I wouldn't say practice is more intense," defensive end Dillin Rudloff said. "We know we have (Delaware Valley) down the road, but we're not thinking of them full. We have to finish camp strong just like we started strong. Just take it week by week and we'll be fine."
"If you can't be excited about playing the first game on this surface and are looking past to Week 2, then I would be really disappointed," Clark said. "I think we have a very mature group, a very disciplined group and they're focused on what they want to accomplish this year. It's something we're going to have to continue to talk about and be aware about. But Week 1 with Brockport, let's go. Then we'll worry about everyone else after that."