It was really a week off in name only. It's not as if Lycoming spent all last week watching TV and eating pizza.
But with no game on a Saturday afternoon for the first time since August, last week was an opportunity for Lycoming to focus on different things. First, it was about getting healthy. While the Warriors still practiced, players were allowed opportunities to get extra treatment, or take a day off to let nagging injuries get a little better.
Then there was the opportunity to focus on themselves. Injuries and a lack of execution were haunting in a loss to Lebanon Valley two weeks ago just before the bye. Last week was a chance to correct some of the mistakes the team had been making.
It was a no-pressure week. The focus was still intense. The effort was still there. It was a chance to take a deep breath and regroup.
Lycoming is one of four teams tied atop the Middle Atlantic Conference for first place - the Warriors, Lebanon Valley, Widener and Delaware Valley are separated by just various tie-breakers. And with another first-place game this week against Albright, last week was a chance to refocus.
The Warriors' players got a chance to spend a few extra days at home before coming back for a full-pad practice Sunday evening.
"It was good for everybody. The coaches went home after practice last week instead of coming in to watch the practice film and we got home at 7 instead of 8," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "While we had a lot of film to watch, we didn't have to do it all last week. We could do it in bits and pieces."
Clark and his team were looking forward to the bye week in the weeks leading up to it. A last-minute win over Widener left Lycoming both physically an emotionally exhausted. A week later the Warriors beat Delaware Valley on a last-minute interception by Tanner Troutman in an equally exhausting game.
The loss to Lebanon Valley the following week only further emphasized how difficult the stretch of three games was for Lycoming. Players walked toward the bus without the hop in their stop which had accompanied the wins over Widener and Delaware Valley. It was a team which was exhausted, and with a homecoming game looming against Albright, the team which garnered the second-most first-place votes in the MAC preseason coaches poll, a rest was necessary.
"I played in a state championship game (in high school), and those three weeks were maybe the most emotional weeks I've ever been a part of in my football career," Lycoming receiver Corey Talerico said. "It's tough when you play such good teams like that. It's not hard to get motivated, but it's tough to stay motivated for those three weeks."
"Playing good teams is one thing, but how we beat those teams They were 60-minute football games," Clark said. "It wasn't a situation where guys played a half and you relaxed in the fourth quarter a little bit. Those games were all down to the final minute.
"I still don't think we're 100 percent healthy. We're probably 80 to 85 percent, which is still better than where we were. I think everybody benefited from a little bit of time off, and benefited from trying to improve themselves."
The reality is the the Warriors are going to have to play a game on the level of what they did against Widener and Delaware Valley to beat an Albright team which has won three straight after after back-to-back losses to Stevenson and Delaware Valley to open league play. It's why a lot of the Warriors' focus last week was on themselves and improving what it is they do.
While some of the stuff the Warriors practiced was Albright centric, it was mostly Lycoming going over what plays they'd like to run based on what formations they get this week from the Lions.
This is an Albright team which is second in total offense (416.3 yards of per game) and total defense (298 yards allowed per game). Don't let the two league losses fool you. This is a veteran Albright team which starts 19 seniors. It's a team which took Delaware Valley to the wire, losing only on a last-second field goal.
"We're motivated because we want to win out," Talerico said. "We know one more loss and we're done, and we really want to get that MAC championship. Everyone is still motivated and pushing hard."