Lycoming set for season finale on Saturday

The Stevenson team Lycoming will play in its season finale Saturday isn’t the same one which won the Middle Atlantic Conference title last year. That was a Mustangs team which had built for a few years to have the kind of team which could win a league title.

But the Warriors aren’t traveling to Owings Mills, Maryland, this weekend thinking they’ve got an easy task to finish the season .500. Stevenson is in the top three in the league in both total offense and total defense. The Mustangs’ 5-4 record masks the quality team they really are.

“For how they play, they’re always going to be hard-nosed kids down there,” Lycoming receiver Mike Mulvihill said. “But at the same time, we have to come out and do our own thing and get prepared to play them. That’s what you have to focus on the most.”

“It would be fair to say they lost a lot of really good players, but they’re still tremendously athletic across the board and still a really talented and dangerous team,” Warriors head coach Mike Clark said. “They’re just not nearly as experienced as the team that was in the playoff last year.”

On paper, the difference between finishing 5-5 and 4-6 for Lycoming is minimal. It’s been a disappointing season at times, losing three games by four points or fewer. But psychologically, the opportunity to get to .500 after back-to-back losing seasons is important for the Warriors.

To get there, they’ll have their hands full. Quarterback Dan Williams is the second-highest rated passer in the league who averages more than 300 passing yards per game. Receiver Preston Addo already has 1,100 receiving yards and averages 19 yards per catch.

Defensively, even though the Mustangs lost a trio of three-year starters, including Austin Tennessee who was in Minnesota Vikings training camp, they’re still one of the stingiest teams against the pass.

“They’re not as active as other teams we’ve played, but they’re solid and very sound in their defense,” Mulvihill said. “We have to put everything together against a team like this.”

Lycoming is coming off a three-point loss to Lebanon Valley in which it left Annville thinking there were plenty of opportunities to win the game which it left on the field. In what is expected to be another tight game, Lycoming knows it can’t leave those chances on the field again this week.

Stevenson’s 30.8 points per game are second in the conference to only Delaware Valley, who is ranked seventh in the country. Williams and Addo teamed up to be a pain for the Lycoming defense a year ago.

Williams completed 12 of 20 passes for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Addo caught four passes for 115 yards, including an 80-yard scoring reception which gave the Mustangs a two-touchdown lead in the second quarter.

Now, Stevenson has added some run-pass option looks to its offense which give defenses an even tougher challenge in trying to defend it. It helps produce some rushing yards for an offense that has the third-fewest rushing yards in the league this year and has run for 100 yards in a game as a team just twice this year.

“I think they’re beat up on the line some, so maybe they don’t believe they can sustain it and really run it like they usually do,” Clark said. “But the problem with the RPO stuff is people are run-blocking. On first and second down things they’re dealing with some run schemes and they’re pulling some linemen into it. So as a defense you get conflicting reads, and that’s challenging.”

Mulvihill said they understand the challenge in front of them his week, but it’s these kinds of challenges that make playing football fun. The goal is to send the team’s seniors off with one more positive memory of Lycoming football.

“It’s all about coming out and getting a win for them,” Mulvihill said. “Wins help boost the morale of a team. Everyone comes together after a win. The seniors need it and we need it as a team.”