A week ago Mike Clark stood inside the Shangraw Athletic Complex, just outside of the Lycoming football locker room, speaking about how nice it would be if the Warriors were able to get an early lead in a football game. The Warriors had three wins going into last week's game against King's, and all three were come-from-behind wins.
Standing in the hallway just outside the trainer's room, Clark pontificated about the benefits of getting ahead in a football game and not having to play from behind. So when the Warriors opened up last week's game, they opened it with a bang.
Clark and his coaches saw an opening for a big play, and he didn't wait to execute it. Quarterback Tyler Jenny dropped back on a play-action pass to open the game and hit Jarrin Campman in stride on a 78-yard touchdown pass.
Talk about a fast start.
It was just what Clark was hoping for as one touchdown led to two, and two touchdowns led to three. All of a sudden the Warriors had a 20-0 lead and cruised to a 33-10 win to remain undefeated in MAC play.
Following the game, players expressed how relaxing it was to get off to a fast start. They didn't have to worry about battling back from a deficit in the fourth quarter. They didn't have to worry about a sequence of high-pressure defensive plays in the second half to hold on to a one-score lead.
The Warriors got almost too relaxed. The offense was never quite as threatening as it was in the first 17 minutes of the game, scoring its only other two touchdowns when the defense gave it fields of 9 and 16 yards to work with.
But the Warriors got off to a fast start nonetheless, and held that 20-0 lead.
"Anytime you have a fast start it's always good," Lycoming linebacker Kabongo Bukasa said. "We don't want to put up 100 points, but if you get that fast start, the backup players can come in and get a little bit of experience."
And that's exactly what Lycoming was able to do. During the final drive for King's, the Warriors played exclusively with its backup defense. On that final drive, Andrew McGreevy recorded three tackles and Jermaine Reyes had two as the second-team unit kept King's from punching in a final score.
But everything was set up by the one play the Warriors used to start the game. Just 17 seconds in, they forced the Monarchs to scramble as they played from behind.
"We thought we had a shot to get that on the first play," Jenny said. "You want to start out fast because we haven't done it all year. But it's nice to put 20 points on the board in the first quarter. It's what we're looking for."
That opportunity isn't going to present itself every week, but the idea is just as important as the execution. This is a Lycoming team that is scoring just under 22 points per game, and allowing just 15 points per game. The Warriors have continually played close games as they've started their season 4-1, so quick starts like Saturday's will prove to be vital. And it becomes even more evident just two weeks short of a meeting with Widener that will likely decide the MAC champion.
"It's a way to set the tone for the game," Clark said.
Here's a closer look at Lycoming's 33-10 win over King's:
Two weeks in a row Jenny has been asked to throw to an empty spot in order to get the Warriors a much-needed touchdown. Two weeks in a row Jenny completed that touchdown pass to an empty spot. This one was a wheel route to receiver John Sibel and Jenny put the football in a spot where he trusted Sibel to make an athletic play, and it worked out, giving the Warriors a 27-10 lead in the third quarter.
"We're taught to throw to a 2-yard spot inside the pylon," Jenny said. "You have to have trust. Last week it worked with Jarrin (Campman) and Sibel's a pretty good receiver himself. You have to build that trust. You work on it in practice every week and you just expect him to make that play."
Nick Mongiello goes mostly unnoticed during the course of a Lycoming football game. It's the life of a fullback, basically the extension of the offensive line. But he made a catch Saturday which made him stand out. As Jenny rolled to his right on a first-down play in the first quarter, Mongiello snuck out of the backfield and was wide open in the flat. Jenny's throw was just a bit behind Mongiello who caught the ball with one hand reaching behind him. After gathering his wits, he rumbled down the sideline for a 21-yard gain that set up Craig Needhammer's 5-yard touchdown run.
King's tailback Kyle McGrath entered Saturday's game as the second-leading rusher in the MAC, but his best run of the day was as much a credit to the King's play-callers as it was to McGrath's running ability. The Monarchs continually rolled right on sprint-out plays looking for open crossing patters and out routes on a second-quarter touchdown drive. So when it came time to punch in the touchdown, King's quarterback Tyler Hartranft rolled to his right, and as he passed McGrath he tucked the football in McGrath's belly, and the tailback ran to an open space on the left side of the line for a 7-yard touchdown. The play design was more effective than the run itself, but McGrath got the credit in the box score.
Jenny is still in his first year as a starter, but it's no longer surprising to see him having the success he's having. But putting together a run of 8 of 9 passes completed for 143 yards was just what Lycoming needed in a game in which it wanted to start fast. That first quarter included a 78-yard touchdown pass to Campman and three other 10-plus yard completions. Jenny is beginning to play like a seasoned veteran just five games into his career as the Warriors' starter.
Dwight Hentz and Roger Jayne are two of the most underappreciated defensive players in the MAC. It's hard to quantify just what kind of havoc they cause by pressuring the quarterback and running backs up the middle, opening up holes for linebackers and defensive ends to make tackles. That is, until Saturday. Hentz recorded a career-high two sacks, recording a half-sack on four of the six Warriors' sacks. He also recorded a team-high 10 tackles as Lycoming held a MAC opponent to 14 points or fewer for the fourth consecutive week.
"Regardless of what everyone else is doing, if we keep doing what we're doing, that will take care of itself and that's the mindset we need to have. We need to take care of ourselves first."
- Quarterback Tyler Jenny on the Warriors being 4-0 in the MAC.
Mitch Rupert covers Lycoming football for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch-Rupert.