New center, holder help Lyco special teams
The last place Zack Czap wanted to be was on the right hashmark. He didn’t have much of a choice, though.
It’s where the football rested and it was fourth down, so his 35 yard field-goal attempt to try and tie Saturday afternoon’s game against Albright was going to come from that right hashmark.
The Lycoming kicker was already dealing with a swirling wind, and the snaps and holds on field goal and PAT attempts in the Warriors’ previous two games had been anything but automatic. Despite all the factors saying the senior shouldn’t be able to make the kick, he drilled it with 18 seconds to go, forcing overtime where Lycoming kept its season alive with Czap’s second field goal of the day, a much easier 29-yarder.
“I don’t like to be on either hash too much,” Czap said following his second game-winning field goal of the season. “I know if I hit one and it slices, it was gone because of the wind. I wasn’t 100 percent sure of what (the ball) was going to do because the wind was going every which way. I aimed a little bit left of center and it went through.”
A kicking game that has been anything but stable this year for Lycoming found a little bit of stability on Saturday afternoon at David Person Field. And after a fourth consecutive game was decided by seven points or less for Lycoming, that kicking game is going prove to be even more crucial going forward.
All five of Czap’s made field goals this year have come in just two games. The first three game in a 16-14 win on the road at Widener, including a 44-yarder and a game-winning 33-yarder with under 3 minutes to go.
The other two came Saturday, the first with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and the last in overtime to win the game. The common denominator among all five field goals were the execution by the team’s short-snapper and holder.
Up until yesterday, the short-snapper had been defensive lineman Zack McMenamin and the holder had been receiver John Sibel. Recent struggles, though, forced Lycoming to make a change. Beginning with the Delaware Valley game, McMenamin’s snaps on field goals and PATs began coming in high. It cost the Warriors on a field goal and extra-point attempt against the Aggies.
Then, after another high snap against Lebanon Valley a week later, McMenamin approached the coaches and said he couldn’t handle the duties anymore. Junior long-snapper David Hahn, who snaps on punts, took over the short-snapping duties Saturday against Albright, and sophomore Mike Gentile was the holder.
The new crew was tested early when Hahn’s snap on a PAT after a Tyler Jenny touchdown run came back a little low. But Gentile got the ball down for Czap to convert the PAT. The other three attempts for the crew on Saturday were executed perfectly.
“I love, absolutely love, Zack McMenamin. He’s one of our best leaders on the football team. But something happened and we don’t know what,” Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. “He was mature enough in the Lebanon Valley game to come to us and say I can’t, which is tough because he’s one of the most mentally tough kids we have. So we put the burden on David Hahn. And I had told Mike Gentile a couple weeks ago that I was disappointed with where he was as a player. But I just praised both those guys (in the locker room). I can’t say enough positive things about that group.”
When it came time for Czap to attempt the game-tying field goal, the concern was no longer about a high snap dooming the attempt. It was all the other factors which clouded the outcome.
First, it was a 35-yard attempt, a length at the Division III level which is no gimme. Then there was the wind. For most of the day Saturday, the wind was coming from the West and the South. But at times it would blow from the Southeast. Meaning teams moving from the softball field side of David Person Field toward the soccer field were moving into the wind.
But as Albright head coach John Marzka twice called timeout to try and ice Czap, the wind shifted. Czap said he always had a good feel that the wind would move mostly from his left to his right. But it still wasn’t an easy kick.
“I didn’t think it was high percentage given the wind,” Marzka said. “It was a stiff wind. I was watching in pregame and (Czap) wasn’t very accurate kicking that way into the wind. I gave it 50-50 tops, but the kid nailed it. You have to give him credit.”
Czap said he can draw on the success he had at Widener kicking what turned out to be the game-winning field goal, but every situation is different. There were so many more factors involved in the outcome of the fourth-quarter kick Saturday than there were in Chester against Widener.
But he never seemed rattled, even as Marzka gave him extra time to think about the kick. He calmly took practice swings with his right leg as both teams conferred with coaches during the breaks. And after nailing the game-tying field goal, he was left with a much easier kick in overtime.
Although he was still dealing with the wind in his face, the kick was only from 29 yards in overtime, and even if he missed the Warriors would be headed to a second overtime because C.J. Arhontakis had blocked Albright’s field-goal attempt in overtime.
Czap’s kick in overtime was perfect. And for making his two pressure-filled kicks, Czap was named the MAC’s Special Teams Player of the Week on Sunday for the second time this year and the sixth time in his stellar career.
“It’s not just the kicker, and it’s easy to blame the kicker. Most of the time, that’s what happens,” Clark said. “It’s such a precision operation and those guys executed. We won because we executed the way we’re capable of.”
“We’ve had some snap issues, but my mindset has always been to kick the ball when it’s there,” Czap said. “Either it’s going to go in or not. There’s no worrying about maybe. I just have to give it 100 percent and hope it goes in.”