Del. Val. defense will give Lyco problems

Mike Clark’s response to the question posed to him was exasperation. Asked what problems Delaware Valley’s defense posed for Saturday’s game, the Lycoming football head coach had to take a deep breath before rattling off those problems.

“Goodness gracious,” Clark said.

Truth be told, it would have taken far less time to talk about the aspects of the Aggies’ defense don’t pose a problem for the Warriors in Saturday’s Middle Atlantic Conference opener at David Person Field. That conversation would take no time at all. Literally, no time. Because there isn’t an aspect of the Delaware Valley defense which isn’t a concern.

The Aggies returned nine of 11 starters from last year’s defense to this year’s team. And that’s the defense which forced three turnovers in an upset of top-10 ranked Wesley in last week’s season opener.

“The whole secondary is back, all four linebackers, too,” Clark said. “They have a really athletic defensive end in Christian Snowden. Of their four linebackers, Nick DiGati is a returning all-conference player. T.J. Waters was supposed to go to Navy out of high school. Mike Ockimey was JUCO kid who ended up at Temple before Del Val. Nick Wright was an unbelievable player at North Penn which is an unbelievable program. And their two safeties are ludicrous. Shawn Miller is a preseason All-American and Jarren McBryde is a really good sophomore. They’re big, fast and they’re athletic.”

But other than that, piece of cake.

Hyperbole aside, this is going to be the toughest test of the short season for a Lycoming offense which failed to score a touchdown in its season opener last week at Susquehanna. It’s a Warriors offense which alternated quarterbacks Chase Williams and Collin Wright with each possession a week ago. And it’s an offense which was still searching for some answers on the offensive line a week before the season began.

Lycoming was held to just over 200 yards of offense in last week’s loss. More than half of that came in the Warriors’ first two drives of the game in the first quarter which produced their only points.

“They have some speed. They’re really athletic. They have a lot of guys returning. It should be a good test for us because they’re a really good team,” Williams said. “I’m really interested to see how we play against them because this defense is really good and really experienced. If we can play well against them, I think we can hold our own against anybody.”

This Delaware Valley defense finished last season as the top scoring defense in the MAC, allowing 14.5 points per game. It also allowed the fewest yards in the league per game (268.3), recorded the second-most sacks (32) and intercepted the second-most passes (17).

But one thing Lycoming has going for it coming into this game against the 12th-ranked Aggies is they have played Delaware Valley tough over the last two years even as the Warriors have struggled. Last year, it took a touchdown in the final three minutes of the game for Delaware Valley to squeak out a 28-20 win on its home field.

Two years ago in Williamsport, Lycoming ruined Delaware Valley’s march to the MAC title when it overcame a 21-point third-quarter deficit to stun the Aggies with a last-second field goal. That 43-42 win over then 19th-ranked Delaware Valley was one of the few bright spots in a season which started a downward run for the Warriors over the last two seasons.

It’s not that Clark and the Warriors are hanging their hats on those two games as proof they can compete this weekend. But even as the Warriors still try to find its offensive footing, they’re not going to let this Aggies defense run around and do whatever it wants to control the football game.

The Lycoming offensive line protected its two quarterbacks reasonably well last week. The Warriors’ receiving corps, led by Nick Costello, is as good and as deep as any unit in the MAC. Steve Wiser’s defense is as fast an athletic as it’s been since the days of Anthony Marascio and Kabongo Bukasa winning MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

While Lycoming is clearly not the favorite heading into the football game, it’s also not conceding anything to the nationally-ranked Aggies.

“We’re not going to be afraid,” Clark said. “They do any unbelievable job of being really consistent, but they’re not the Steelers. They’re a bunch of Division 3 football players. We’re not going to back down and we’re going to fight them. And we’re going to find a way to hopefully win the football game.”