Kyle Sullivan welcomed the bye week last week. It was a chance to go home to the Philadelphia area Friday and Saturday, a chance to let his body heal from two months of beatings as a Lycoming linebacker and a chance to stop thinking about football for a minute.
Or so he thought.
As much as he wanted to stop thinking about football, just for a mental break, and enjoy being home, what awaited he and his teammates was too much to ignore. The Warriors are playing a de facto Middle Atlantic Conference championship game Saturday against Widener. And the game was just far too important to put completely on the back burner like Sullivan would have liked to.
It was a common theme, though, amongst his teammates. The coaching staff still had the team practice four days last week before giving the team off on Friday and Saturday.
"It was nice to have a little distraction of seeing people from high school and all that. It helps get our minds off it for a little," Sullivan said Wednesday. "But in the back of your mind, it's always there all the time because we know how big this is. When you come back you have to be ready to go and your mind has to be ready to go."
Lycoming head coach Mike Clark has tried to make sure this week was just like a regular game week. He had players and coaches back in town Sunday for practice, and after an off-day Monday, everything was back on its regular schedule.
After two months of a regimented schedule, Clark said one of the dangers of a bye week can be the break in routine, which is why he tried to make this week like any other week for the Warriors.
"We did as best we could to keep it as normal as possible while still getting the rest we needed," Clark said. "You worry because you didn't play an opponent last week, but I think for everyone - the coaches and players - the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages."
One glance around the practice field Wednesday would have proven the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. Practicing with the defense were safeties Cody Butler and Ryan Fenningham.
Butler, who started the season as one of the Warriors' starting safeties, has been hampered by injuries all year. He practiced leading up to the FDU-Florham game wearing a red jersey, keeping him out of contact.
Fenningham hasn't played since hurting his left knee early in the second quarter against Delaware Valley in Week 2. The senior safety's injury was at first thought to be feared a major one, but he practiced Wednesday with his left knee heavily taped and with a brace on the same knee.
As beneficial as the physical rest was, the mental rest was just as important, even if there was the thoughts of a big game weighing on their minds.
"It was nice to be home and relax and just do what you want to do at home," receiver Ryan Umpleby said. "I got a lot of sleep. It was just a good break."
Coincidentally, Lycom-ing's bye week fell at the same time as Widener's bye week. So both teams enter this week's game having had two weeks to prepare for one another.
Widener quarterback Chris Haupt said it was beneficial for the 14th-ranked Pride to have the extra week to prepare because of the battle they're expecting.
"Obviously, they're a very good team and they've already played the better half of the teams in the MAC," Haupt said. "Having another week to prepare is huge because we know we're probably going to be in for a war."
Lycoming returns to what is going to be a hectic Saturday at the Shangraw Athletic Complex. It's homecoming week, so there will be the festivities that surround that. And Saturday, prior to the game, a bust of former Warriors head coach Frank Girardi will be unveiled next to the field.
They're potential distractions which Clark said he's not worried about them being distractions. He's coaching a group that has been able to focus on football when it's time to focus on football.
And with the importance tied to Saturday's game against Widener, that's a good sign for the Warriors, which will try to beat it's second nationally-ranked team this year.
"Our guys care about winning the football game. They care about winning the MAC championship," Clark said. "Our guys are focused on remaining in first place in the conference. To our football players and our football coaches, this week is only about football. It's about winning Saturday afternoon."