EDWARDSVILLE - John Sibel rolled around on Schmidt Stadium's turf field trying to find a way to get the air back into his lungs. His teammates held him down thinking he had hurt his head after a post-whistle hit from Wilkes linebacker Tate Moore-Jacobs.
The sophomore wide receiver out of Pennsbury High School was already having a big game for Lycoming on Saturday by the time the late hit took him out for a play. But as he was on the sideline regaining his wits, Warriors head coach Mike Clark got Sibel fired up by saying he wanted him to score the team's next touchdown.
After missing just one play, Sibel returned to the field with a play called for him to make a double move on the outside and beat the cornerback to the end zone. Wilkes' Marcus Leaf didn't bite. Quarterback Tyler Jenny threw the ball anyway and Sibel got his revenge for the late hit, adjusting to an underthrown pass by leaping over Leaf to catch the ball for a 24-yard touchdown reception.
Lycoming got the ultimate revenge for the late hit yesterday, bouncing back from a devastating defeat a week ago to play its most complete game of the season to beat Wilkes, 38-7. It was the Warriors' first win at Wilkes since 2003 and they got it with career days from Sibel and Jenny, and a defense which held Wilkes' running game to half its season average. The Warriors also held Wilkes to just two pass completions.
"You look at last week (a 28-23 loss to Widener) and I don't know if devastating is the right word because you still have to go out and play, but we really played well (Saturday)," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "Last week really hurt, and to an extent, it still does. As a staff, we're really pleased with how we played."
Clark said they actually had a play they liked better once the Warriors offense got to the Wilkes 24-yard line, a play that later went for a touchdown pass to Jarrin Campman, but because of the late hit that Sibel had taken, Clark felt it appropriate that Sibel got a chance to score the touchdown.
And the play was nothing short of stellar. Sibel channeled his basketball background looking as if he was leaping up for a rebound once he realized the ball was a touch underthrown. He caught the ball at its highest point, never giving Leaf a chance to make a play.
When Sibel hit the ground, he went nuts, pumping his fist and pounding his chest with the football. It was his second touchdown catch of the season, and first since a Week 5 game against King's.
"The emotions got the best of me there," Sibel said with a smile. "I was real fired up. But coach Clark got me fired up by telling me he wanted me to go in and score a touchdown on a play I really love to run. It was just a great play call."
"I've learned to trust him," Jenny said. "Even last year I knew he was going to be great and that he has the ability to go up and get the ball even though he's a smaller guy. He's probably one of the smallest (receivers) we have. He's got great hands and really goes up and gets the ball when the opportunity is there."
The touchdown catch was a tidy little bow on a day that saw Sibel catch a career-high 81 yards worth of passes. Earlier in the first quarter Sibel made a similar catch on an underthrown deep ball down the seam when he quickly adjusted and made a leap to make a 41-yard reception. It was the longest catch of his career and came a week after setting his previous high of 15 yards against Widener.
It was a big play kind of day for a receiver that just two years ago was not recruited all that heavily out of Pennsbury High School. He came from a high school program that emphasized the run game and he only had by his estimation, "five catches in his high school career."
He's become a go-to receiver for Lycoming in his second year and is the Warriors' second-leading receiver. But prior to Saturday, he had always been a possession receiver who didn't drop a pass if it got near him and had a knack for getting the football in his hands.
Yesterday, he added big-play threat to his resume.
"I love the kid," Clark said. "Based on what transpired (with the late hit), I figured we'd give John a chance to score. The ball wasn't a great throw and the corner didn't jump it like we thought he would, but John can really catch the ball."
The touchdown pass was one of three Jenny threw Saturday, giving him 15 for the season against just three interceptions. Two of those touchdown passes went to Campman, one on a 26-yard crossing route and one on a 25-yard seam route.
The two touchdown receptions gave Campman 10 for the year, moving into a tie for the fifth-most in school history in a single season with Steve Verton, Vic Olear and Tim Dumas. He needs just three over the final two weeks to tie the school record.
Jenny finished with a career-high 239 passing yards. He completed a pass to seven receivers.
"The receivers played well, especially John who made a couple really, really nice catches," Jenny said. "We worked on (the passing game) all week, especially a couple things we felt that were really going to work if (Wilkes) played the way they had been. And the line did a great job, too. We had time to throw the ball down field. It really was a team effort."
That team effort offensive led to 438 yards of offense. It left to converting on 9 of 14 third downs, and it led to a 17-minute advantage in time of possession.
It also backed a defensive effort that saw the Colonels rush for just 131 yards on 42 carries despite coming in with the 16th-best run game in the country averaging 260 yards per game. Starting quarterback Tyler Berntsen was Wilkes' leading rusher with 66 yards, but he completed just 2 of 16 passes for 27 yards and he was sacked five times.
"We wanted to make them throw the ball. It made them do something that they don't really want to do," Clark said. "When you're 16th in the country running the ball and you only have to throw it a couple times to win, it's a nice way to play. When you have to throw and you get behind, it's a challenge."
Lycoming 7 14 10 7 - 38
Wilkes 0 7 0 0 - 7
LYCO - Tyler Jenny 1 yd run (Zack Czap kick), 1:34
W - Patrick Ingulli 4 yd run (Jordan Fredo kick), 11:59
LYCO - Jarrin Campman 26 yd pass from Tyler Jenny (Zack Czap kick), 7:00
LYCO - John Sibel 24 yd pass from Tyler Jenny (Zack Czap kick), 4:43
LYCO - Jarrin Campman 25 yd pass from Tyler Jenny (Zack Czap kick), 9:55
LYCO - Zack Czap 37 yd field goal, 5:15
LYCO - Craig Needhammer 14 yd run (Zack Czap kick), 7:15
FIRST DOWNS 29 9
RUSHES-YARDS 48-199 42-131
PASSING YDS 239 27
Passes Att-Comp-Int 27-17-0 16-2-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-40 8-105
RUSHING: Lycoming-Craig Needhammer 21-78; Parker Showers 13-69; Tyler Jenny 5-24; Chris Nemits 5-17; Zach Klinger 3-6; Matt Atkinson 1-5. Wilkes-Tyler Berntsen 17-66; Patrick Ingulli 18-47; Jordan Fredo 1-15; Nick Dawson 1-6; Alex George 2-1; Calvin Garvin 2-minus 1; PJ Incremona 1-minus 3.
PASSING: Lycoming-Tyler Jenny 17-26-0-239; Matt Atkinson 0-1-0-0; Zach Klinger 0-0-0-0. Wilkes University-Tyler Berntsen 2-16-0-27.
RECEIVING: Lycoming-John Sibel 4-81; Jarrin Campman 4-66; Nick Mongiello 3-32;
Matt Atkinson 2-21; Parker Showers 2-13; Ryan Umpleby 1-17; Craig Needhammer 1-9. Wilkes University-Jared Hargis 1-18; Tim Bousson 1-9.