Late pick seals win for D.V. over Lycoming

DOYLESTOWN — The Lycoming celebration raged on some 65 yards from where a lonely yellow flag lay on the James Work Stadium field. Warriors head coach Mike Clark was already pleading his case knowing a kickoff return for a touchdown was about to be wiped off the scoreboard for a holding penalty.

The Warriors’ celebration on the other end of the field quickly died down after Aaron Davis’ 92-yard return was nullified. It’s been that kind of season for Lycoming. Missed opportunities and inopportune penalties have plagued a season which had plenty of promise some 10 weeks ago.

A holding penalty negated Davis’ potentially game-tying touchdown Saturday afternoon, and Lycoming quarterback Chase Whiteman was intercepted in the end zone with less than a minute to go as Lycoming lost to Delaware Valley, 28-20, in another of a long line of frustrating losses for the Warriors this season.

Lycoming lost for the fourth time this season by one score yesterday afternoon, falling to 3-6. The Warriors are guaranteed a losing season for the second consecutive year. It’s the first time Lycoming has had back-to-back losing seasons since 2006 and 2007, the final seasons of Hall of Fame coach Frank Girardi’s career.

The Warriors close the season against nationally-ranked Stevenson next week. The Mustangs were upset by Wilkes on Saturday to fall to 8-1.

“It hurts. It definitely hurts a lot. Especially when we stepped up like we did in the second half,” said Lycoming cornerback Khamari Williams, who had an interception for the Warriors. “We did everything like we were supposed to do, but we couldn’t make those key plays early in the game.”

Lycoming had a chance to tie the game in the waning minutes because it erased a 14-point halftime deficit with second-half touchdown passes to Dante Gipson and Mike Mulvihill. But it was the damage done in the first half which spelled the Warriors’ sixth loss.

The Warriors dropped four passes in the first half, all of which would have been first downs, and three of which were likely going to be big plays. The Lycoming defense then surrendered two 80-yard touchdown plays to the Aggies in a three-play stretch of the second quarter.

For the third consecutive year, Lycoming was battling from behind in the second half. And for the second time in those three seasons, the Warriors came up just short.

Delaware Valley scored 21 second-quarter points. First it was Aggies receiver Eric Shorter beating the Warriors’ defense deep down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dashawn Darden. Then it was Mack truck running back Devauntay Ellis breaking off an 80-yard touchdown run on a dive play which he bounced to the outside.

The Aggies added a third touchdown with an eight-play, 84-yard drive in the half’s final three minutes, capped by a 4-yard touchdown run from Robert Cleveland. With that final touchdown of the half, it felt like the strong defense the Warriors played in the game’s first 15 minutes was erased. The momentum the offense had created with a game-opening 70-yard touchdown drive was gone.

“It was just two big plays,” Clark said. “But other than the two big plays, defensively I thought we were pretty good.”

Lycoming was tagged with the challenge of coming back from two scores down without the league’s leading rusher Blake Bowman and the team’s leading receiver Nick Costello. Costello broke his collarbone in last week’s loss to Wilkes and is lost for the season. Bowman was diagnosed with a concussion late in the week and didn’t dress for the game.

But when Williams intercepted Darden in the end zone after a pass was tipped on the Aggies’ first possession of the second half, it was the spark the Warriors needed to get back in the game.

Whiteman got the Warriors within seven points with a beauty of a throw on a wheel route to Gipson for a 17-yard touchdown pass with under three minutes to go in the third quarter. Whiteman then engineered a 16-play, 76-yard drive which took 8:23 off the second-half clock. Whiteman capped the drive with a brilliant throw on a fade to Mulvihill for a 9-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2. Whiteman dropped the ball over the corner and under the safety, and Mulvihill maintained control and kept his feet in bounds for his first career touchdown catch.

Mulvihill, filling in for Costello, caught five passes for 74 yards and that touchdown.

“I saw press coverage on the corner. I got outside of him, and as soon as I got outside of him, it was a wrap,” Mulvihill said. “I saw the fade hole and Chase threw a nice ball and I got it.”

“We knew when we recruited him that Mike Mulvihill could be a good football player,” Clark said. “I told him his problem is he’s got to finish his catches. He did an outstanding job of that (Saturday). He’s going to be really good. It’s exciting to see him have the type of game he did. I’m not surprised.”

Lycoming missed the extra point after Mulvihill’s touchdown, which gave Delaware Valley the opportunity to go up eight points when Darden scored from three yards out with 2:40 to play and Nick Restaino added the PAT.

That’s when Davis, a 5-foot-5 backup cornerback from New Jersey, caught the kickoff on his own 8-yard line. He started his return to the left where Moses couldn’t have parted the Delaware Valley kick coverage any better than the Lycoming return team did.

Davis got in the open, cut up the middle, and outran two Aggies for what looked like a kick return touchdown. But that flag back on the 36-yard line took away Davis’ return. It was the second week in a row Lycoming had a tying score negated by a hold. In last week’s loss to Wilkes, Gipson’s go-ahead touchdown run was negated by a controversial holding penalty.

“It’s definitely a frustrating thing. But there’s nothing we can do about it,” Williams said. “You just have to go out and try to make the next play.”

“That’s the second week in a row we score a late touchdown that’s nullified by a penalty, and that can’t happen,” Clark said.

Whiteman drove the Lycoming offense as deep as the Delaware Valley 19-yard line thanks to a pair of gutsy third-down scrambles to pick up first downs. But on first-and-10 from the 19, he looked for Gipson again on the wheel route and Delaware Valley’s Jalen Mayes leaped to intercept the ball in the end zone and end the game.

Six of Lycoming’s last eight losses have been by one score, and four of them, dating back to last year, have been by three points or fewer.

“I was just trying to get the ball to Dante at that point,” Clark said. “I was just taking a shot.

“We didn’t quit today. Part of Delaware Valley’s ability to blow teams out is people succumb to the crowed getting into it and them getting big plays. I’m proud of our kids because we didn’t give in to that. I hate the result. And I just told them I hate the result. We had a chance to win the game. It’s unfortunate.”