You don't have to look too deeply into Saturday's matchup to find reasons for Lycoming to be concerned. And that's probably a good thing.
Having navigated the rough waters of a brutal opening four-game stretch about as well as could be expected, it'd be easy for the Warriors to let off the gas pedal this week against a King's program that hasn't won in Williamsport since 1949. It's a King's program that has struggled since it last beat Lycoming in 2008. It's a King's program whose only win this year is a 55-7 victory over Misericordia, a first-year program, a week ago.
And a week from now is a road trip to play an FDU-Florham team whose only win in three games this year is against King's. There's reasons to look ahead for Lycoming to an Oct. 20 matchup against Widener, the only other team unbeaten this year in MAC play.
King's presents enough problems, though, this week to keep it from happening. First, there's the 55 points it scored in last week's win over Misericordia. Then there's Kyle McGrath, one of just two running backs averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game this year in the MAC. Then there's a defense which is the only team this year to hold Widener, the nation's leader in scoring, under 60 points.
"On paper, we're the better football team," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "But they're still going to show up and they're still going to try to find ways to beat us. So we have to find ways to be focused and energized."
The players said all the right things leading up to what could very well end up being a lopsided game if Lycoming accomplishes its goals. Their focus is solely on King's. There's no reason to look forward to Widener, and they can't afford to look forward to Widener.
It's the mentality Clark has burned into the minds of his players since an opening-week loss to Brockport. They went into the brunt of their MAC schedule - Delaware Valley, Lebanon Valley and Albright - not thinking about the big picture of what needed to be done to win a MAC championship, but thinking about the small picture and what needed to be accomplished every week to keep their hopes of a MAC title alive.
The formula is quite simple: be 1-0 every Saturday at about 4:30 p.m. Nine weeks of going 1-0 by late afternoon every Saturday would guarantee the Warriors a MAC title. It would also guarantee Lycoming an NCAA playoff berth. And it would also erase the sting of that opening-week loss to Brockport which set the Warriors up with their backs against the wall.
"Just stick with the game film you have," Warriors fullback Nick Mongiello said.
"I'm just as focused on King's as I was for Delaware Valley and Lebanon Valley and Albright. I don't want to let off the gas pedal," Warriors right tackle Garrett Hartman said. "Knowing this is a game we need to win, if we go into it light-hearted or thinking about another game, you just might let your guard down and lose a game like this."
You want reasons to be concerned? How about a defense that held Widener to seven first-quarter points and 21 first-half points before losing, 41-6. It's tough to say you held a team to 41 points. But that's the only time Widener hasn't scored 60 this year. And the Pride are coming off a 90-0 win against Wilkes.
So 41? Yeah, that's not too shabby.
"They're not incredibly big, but they give you a lot of problems defensively because they're pretty multiple in their fronts and they pressure a lot," Clark said. "They're not going to let you just line up and physically beat them. They're going to play a bunch of players and try to create as much havoc as they can."
And then there's McGrath, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound running back out of New Jersey, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in three of his four games this year, including 226 in last week's win. He's the cog to a rushing game that is averaging 40 more yards per game than the Monarchs' passing game.
Just as icing on the cake, this is the same King's program that helped create the havoc of a three-way tie for the MAC crown in 2008 by beating the Warriors, 24-7. This is the same program which made Lycoming work very hard in a 31-24 win two years ago.
There's reasons for concern for the Warriors. But that's probably a good thing.
"This game is the halfway point of the year, so there's still a long, long way to go," Clark said. "But we like being in first place and hopefully this Saturday at 4 or 4:30, we'll still be in that situation."