Rivalry renewed for Lycoming with Susquehanna

They know the school. Only some 40 miles away, it’s difficult to not know where Susquehanna University is.

But familiarity from a football standpoint? That’s a bit of a different story. The Crusaders have an extensive history on the football field with Lycoming, but there won’t be a player on either sideline at David Person Field come Saturday’s season opener who has played their opponent previously.

It’s making for an interesting week for the Warriors. The defending Middle Atlantic Conference co-champions were selected by the coaches of the league to repeat that honor this year. So their preparation for Susquehanna won’t be any different than it is for its traditional MAC opponents.

But this one is just a little different. Everything is new. Everything is fresh. Although the school’s are long-time rivals who are rekindling a series which dates back to 1949.

“The coaches will prepare us like they would for any other week,” Lycoming captain and senior linebacker Kyle Sullivan said. “We just have to adjust like we would any other normal game. From what I’ve heard, it’s a pretty big rivalry from back in the day. We’re excited. We’re ready for the season to start.”

The Warriors are looking for their first non-conference win since beating nationally-ranked Rowan and Westminster in back-to-back weeks in 2011. Since then, Lycoming lost the season opener to Brockport State in both 2012 and 2013, scoring a combined four points – that’s right, four – in the two losses.

Lycoming and Susquehanna signed a four-year deal in the offseason to bring back the rivalry for the first time since 2009. With the annual Stagg Hat Trophy on the line, the teams will match up for the 50th time in their history Saturday.

Warriors head coach Mike Clark isn’t assuming he and the coaching staff are going to have all the answers to what the Crusaders want to do both offensively and defensively from the opening kick. While they do have film of the final three games of last season, Susquehanna hired a new defensive coordinator. So there very well could be an adjustment period for the Warriors as they sniff out new wrinkles.

“We’d be nave to think we might not have to make adjustments,” Clark said during the Warriors’ annual media day Saturday. “Our scrimmage against (Franklin and Marshall) opened our eyes a little bit. We went out there thinking we were pretty good, and we left the field knowing we’re not just going to roll the ball out and beat anybody.”

Clark is quite familiar with Susquehanna’s new defensive coordinator Rocco Salomone, though. Salomone was the head coach at Brockport when the Golden Eagles came into David Person Field two years ago and man-handled the Warriors in the season-opener. So not only has Clark been going over the film from Susquehanna’s games from a year ago, he’s also gone back over old films of Brockport’s defense.

“So we’re preparing, really, for three defenses, which you might get and you might not. That’s really challenging,” Clark said. “We’ve seen film and we have plans in place. We can’t carry tons of stuff, but we have enough to know that if they do this, then we’ll do this. We’re going to try to stick with many things that can work across all defenses. You hope there’s some consistency (in the defense), but if there’s not, we’ll draw it up as we go.”

“We’re going to watch the film and learn from it,” Lycoming offensive lineman Garrett Hartman said. “Susquehanna is no different than any other team. We don’t want to take any team for granted.”