Optimism waning after loss

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Lycoming College’s Dante Gipson (25) pushes past Delaware Valley’s Michael Ockimey (24) during a MAC college football game on Saturday at David Person Field in Williamsport. Delaware Valley won 34-3.

A week ago, there was still optimism coming from Lycoming following its one-point loss to Susquehanna. The defense was stout, the offense showed flashes of what it could be, and the kicking game was downright fantastic.

Then there was Saturday against 12th-ranked Delaware Valley. Losing to a team which a week earlier beat a Top-10 ranked Wesley program wasn’t a surprise as Lycoming is trying to find its footing after two losing seasons.

But it was the manner in which the Warriors lost Saturday which is most concerning. The offense recorded just three first downs and registered its second fewest offensive yards since the turn of the century. A defense which played their butts off still allowed nearly 500 yards of offense.

It was hard to find a silver lining after Saturday’s performance for Lycoming. But both head coach Mike Clark and defensive end Adin Hines could only shrug and explain how important it was to continue to move forward.

“You watch film and improve on what you can improve on,” Hines said after recording 2 1/2 tackles for loss. “The offense has to improve on things. The defense has to improve on things. We’re not a finished product yet.”

The schedule isn’t getting more forgiving for the Warriors either. Middle Atlantic Conference favorite Albright comes to town Saturday after scoring 88 points through the first two weeks of the season. The following week the Warriors travel to King’s, a place they haven’t won since 2011.

The defense has proven it can not only play well, but play well consistently. The offense has yet to find any kind of footing.

Clark used both Chase Williams – who started for the second week in a row – and Collin Wright on Saturday, giving them both extended playing time to see if they could get into a rhythm. But both were plagued by missed throws, drops from receivers, and an overall inability to get the football down field.

Williams completed 8 of 18 passes for just 35 yards with a long of just 9 yards. Wright completed 7 of 13 passes for 34 yards with a long of 10 yards. He also threw his second interception of the season.

Combined, the two averaged just 2.2 yards per passing attempt and 4.6 yards per pass completion.

“We have problems everywhere offensively right now,” Clark said. “Offensively we had one drive where we punt on fourth-and-10, but we had 10 yards in penalties. As much as we’re struggling on offense right now, the last thing we want to do is go backwards 10 yards. It’s a laundry list of problems. It’s not any one person’s fault. We’re not great up front and we’re not getting consistent production at quarterback which makes it really hard to be consistent and move the sticks.”

Delaware Valley left the field with its first win in Williamsport since 2011 and was riding high, looking the kind of team which can not only win the league, but could also win NCAA playoff games. Lycoming left with far more questions and answers. The optimism emanating from the team a week ago after the loss to Susquehanna just wasn’t there anymore.

“It’s not going to get any easier. We have another good team coming in here next week,” Clark said. “We’ll do our best to keep plugging. There’s eight weeks left. The season’s not over and we can be better.

Here’s a closer look at Delaware Valley’s 34-3 win over Lycoming on Saturday:

TIDE-TURNING PLAY: Picking up 3 yards was no big deal for Delaware Valley’s Devauntay Ellis. He averaged nearly 8 yards per carry Saturday for the Aggies, so when he was asked to get the final 3 of an eight-play, 36-yard scoring drive in the third quarter, it was a piece of cake. That touchdown run, the second for Ellis, pushed Delaware Valley’s lead to three scores and all but took away any chance of a Lycoming comeback.

BEST DEFENSIVE STAND: The Aggies’ defense wasn’t tested too often on Saturday, but the one time it did have to play with its back to the wall, it stood tall. A muffed punt recovered by Lycoming’s D.J. Boyd set up Lycoming with first down at the Delaware Valley 26-yard line early in the second quarter. But for three plays, the Warriors couldn’t complete a pass. They settled for a 43-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Jamie Fisher. And even though it was the only points allowed by the Aggies, it could have played out much worse.

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAY: The patience developed by Ellis since last season has helped him become a well-rounded running back. He showcased that patience with his first-quarter 62-yard touchdown run. The play, originally designed to go left, opened a cutback lane to the right side. Ellis got a seal block from receiver Marquis Ellis to break free for the touchdown.

“That’s a spot where I was being patient,” Devauntay Ellis said. “I saw the hole open wide. I broke one tackle, shook the guy who almost got off that block, then got down the sideline for a touchdown.”

LOCAL ROUNDUP: Lycoming – Hughesville graduate Trey Smith and Loyalsock graduate Caleb Robbins each started at linebacker for the the Warriors. Smith recorded four tackles for the Warriors, including one solo. Robbins finished with three tackles for Lycoming, including a pair of solo stops.

LYCOMING OFFENSIVE MVP: Jamie Fisher has proven his worth over the first two weeks of the season as the only Lycoming player to have scored points for the Warriors. He kicked his third field goal in as many attempts on Saturday, a 43-yard strike which was true with plenty of distance. He also had a touchback on one of his two kickoffs.

LYCOMING DEFENSIVE MVP: Adin Hines moved back to his more natural position at defensive end this year as Ahmad Curtis has come back from injury and Berwick graduate Kyle Pierce has helped plug up the middle of the line. Saturday he showed off his pass rush ability by twice getting to Delaware Valley quarterback Dashawn Darden for a sack, the second of which he shared with Sam Romanofsky. That pass rush was a big part of Lycoming’s defense being able to limit the Aggies early in the football game.

“I felt like I did good,” Hines said. “I played against them last year and I knew what I was going up against and that helped out a lot.”

UNSUNG HERO: Safety Mike Ward has always thrown his body around with reckless abandon on the football field with no regard for how much punishment he takes. He had a big part in run support for the Warriors and helped limit Delaware Valley’s vertical passing game. Twice, he laid a big hit on a receiver to dislodge the football from them and force an incompletion. On top of that, he led Lycoming with 13 tackles, including 12 solo stops.

Mitch Rupert covers Lycoming football for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.