Mike Clark approached Misericordia head coach Mark Ross following last season's meeting with Lycoming and expressed his admiration for the job Ross had undertaken.
Ross was in his first season of building a Cougars program from the ground up. There was no history or tradition to build on. There was no past successes to sell to potential recruits. Ross was starting completely from scratch.
"I told him after our game last year, I said you're a better coach than I am because I couldn't do it," said Clark, now in his sixth year as head coach at Lycoming. "When you start from the ground up, I can't imagine ..."
Misericordia is just 12 games into the emergence of its program, but it's already become a competitive football program. The Cougars have scored more points in the first two weeks (57) of this season than they did in 10 games last season (54).
Clark and the Lycoming coaching staff is trying to impart on to their team this isn't the same Misericordia team which it beat handily 38-0 to close out the 2012 season. This is a much-improved Misericordia team. And with Widener and Delaware Valley looming in the two weeks following Saturday's game at David Person Field, the Warriors can't afford to look past the Cougars this weekend.
"We haven't even thought about them yet," Lycoming defensive tackle Jimmy Nottingham said of Widener and Delaware Valley. "We know we have to prepare for this week first."
"We have to take every opponent the same way. Based on being a second-year program you might get a little lackadaisical," Lycoming safety Mike Citation said. "But (Misericordia) did give Del Val a run for their money and they put up big numbers on Gettysburg. We definitely want to come into this game and treat them like they're Wilkes or Widener or Del Val or whoever it is and prepare hard during the week."
Most of the players in Lycoming's starting lineup Saturday participated in last year's win over the Cougars which was anything but easy. The Misericordia defense made it difficult for the Warriors to move the football, and it wasn't until the second half when Lycoming pulled away.
So now facing a Misericordia which has the second-best rushing offense in the country, the challenge is clear for Lycoming. And as a program with MAC championship aspirations, the Warriors can't afford a letdown.
"There's a ton of improvement in that team and we have to play well," Clark said. "Last year we were really flat. One of the things we talk about is they're going to beat somebody and get their first win. The longer you let them hang around, the more of a reality it becomes and we don't want that to happen against us."
In the last three years, two teams have become new members of the MAC. First it was Stevenson University in 2011. The Mustangs scored a major win in its development last week beating Albright in its MAC opener.
Misericordia isn't quite ready to look for that defining win, instead it's just looking for its first win. It trailed Gettysburg by only two points in the third quarter two weeks ago before losing 62-40. The Cougars capitalized on mistakes by Delaware Valley a week ago and turned a 35-3 halftime deficit into a 35-17 deficit after three quarters before falling 42-17.
The Cougars are getting closer, and with an offense which is averaging better than 475 yards rushing a game, and has run at least 80 offensive plays in both games this year, that win may not be too far off. So the focus this week for Lycoming is on nothing more than Misericordia. There's no need to look ahead to next week's huge road matchup with Widener, or a home game with Delaware Valley in two weeks.
"We've talked about it enough. The message is being sent and I think it's being heard," Clark said. "But they're going to continue to hear it."