Stevenson difficult final challenge for Lyco

During the week as Lycoming head coach Mike Clark was preparing to do his studies on Stevenson’s defense, had assistant Lycoming assistant coach Dominic Bornman put together a montage of the red zone possessions against the Mustangs’ defense.

There was a glaring omission from that collection of game film. There were no clips from Stevenson’s game against Dela­ware Valley. It seemed odd, to Clark, Lycoming’s ninth-year head coach.

“I double checked to make sure Dominic didn’t mess up when we sorted the information and said you included the Del Val game, too, right?” Clark said. “There wasn’t a single play by Del Val inside the 25-yard line.”

At the time, when Delaware Valley and Stevenson met, both were nationally-ranked. That’s the kind of test Lycoming will face Saturday when it closes out its season against 23rd-ranked Stevenson at David Person Field.

“Defensively they’re really good,” Clark said. “Their secondary is the best secondary in the league. Their linebackers are really fast. They’re really good defensively.”

Stevenson was ranked as high as 12th in the country last week before suffering a shocking 38-25 loss to two-win Wilkes. When Clark sat down to watch the film of the Mustangs’ game against Wilkes, he was hoping to find the answer as to how to beat Stevenson. He didn’t find that.

Instead he saw Wilkes capitalize on some double moves from their receivers. He saw the Colonels capitalize on some broken plays and jump-ball situations.

“It’s just not that clear how to beat them,” Clark said. “But I think we have a good plan. We do think there are some places we can have success. It’s not impossible. We can’t completely avoid what we’re good at because they’re good. You have to try to do what we’re good at, but you have to be smart about where you try to do it.”

The Warriors are looking to close out their season with a bang, not unlike they did a year ago, beating nationally-ranked Delaware Valley in the season’s penultimate week. Lycoming can still play a big role in who wins the Middle Atlantic Conference championship.

Stevenson and Albright enter the regular season’s final week each with a 7-1 record in MAC play. Stevenson holds the tie-breaker over Albright for the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament because of their win over the Lions in Week 2. But a win by Lycoming over Stevenson could throw a big wrench into those plans.

“We haven’t played our best game yet this year. We haven’t played a 60-minute game yet,” Lyco­ming offensive lineman Bailey Hughes said. “And this could be the week that we finally put it all together. And it’s the right time in the last game of the year to do it.”

“(Stevenson) has to beat us Saturday to go to the playoffs, and quite honestly I hope Albright goes to the playoffs because it means we won the game,” Clark said. “And I don’t like Albright.”

Stevenson defense has intercepted 22 passes this year, more than any team in the country. The Mustangs rank third in the conference in points allowed (17.9 per game), fourth in total defense (314.6 yards per game), fourth rushing defense (123.6 yards per game), and third in passing defense (191 yards per game).

Clark said the Mustangs tend to slant their front hard and pinch the linebackers in order to slow the run. They have so much team speed that they force offenses to bounce runs out wide.

“I think it’ll be a pretty big challenge for us,” Hughes said. “But at the same time, I think we can have a pretty good game, especially on the offensive line.”

“People talk about their secondary and their pass defense, but I haven’t seen anyone run on them,” Clark said. “When I watch the film, I say where are the big runs? And there aren’t many.”