Warriors not panicking despite opening loss

It would have been easy for Lycoming players and coaches to be riddled with Chicken Little syndrome following Saturday’s lopsided loss to Susquehanna. It would be easy to panic.

Instead, there was none of that. There was a heavy dose of frustration mixed with a dash of head-scratching. But Lycoming’s season didn’t end with a 38-7 loss in the Stagg Hat Trophy game at David Person Field.

“We’re not going to let these three hours define our season,” senior captain Nick Costello said.

It’s the proper approach following as humbling a season-opener as Saturday’s was. This is a Lycoming team which believes it has the personnel to be a good football team. It’s a team which has both talent and depth at some key spots. It’s a team which believes if it plays to its capability, it can compete for the Middle Atlantic Conference championship.

But to be able to accomplish such a feat, the Warriors can’t afford to panic. It can’t afford to believe the sky is falling after losing a game to a team which led the Centennial Conference in defense a year ago and returns nine starters on that side of the ball.

This much is true after Saturday: Lycoming is 0-1 and did not play well. True freshman quarterback Elijah Shemory struggled in his first collegiate game, throwing four interceptions. The offensive line struggled to open any kind of running lanes for Keith Batkowski or Jacob Fimbres.

To buy into the idea Lycoming is not a good team after a lopsided loss, would ignore all the information gathered to this point which points to the contrary. Shemory struggled Saturday, but was fantastic in both a joint practice with Ithaca and a scrimmage with Franklin & Marshall over the last couple weeks. The offensive line is still anchored by first-team all-conference selection Brad Stubbs. And he’s surrounded by plenty of experience with Dan Sipps, Cody Botts and Ethan Newton.

The defensive line is one of the largest and most talented groups the Warriors have had in the last three or four seasons. The Warriors can run athletic linebackers into the game like hockey line changes.

All of that is still true and all of that still matters. Saturday’s loss hurts because it was so far from what anyone was expecting from the opening game of the season. And it hurts even more because it came to a heated rival in a trophy game.

But if Lycoming holds on to all of that as it gets into the crux of its schedule this week at Widener, similar results are sure to follow. If they’re able to brush it aside as an anomaly in what should otherwise still be a productive and successful season, all of the things the Warriors think they’re capable of can still be true.

So now it’s up to the team to decide. Are they going to let the three hours from the season’s opening day define their season or not?

Here’s a closer look at Susquehanna’s 38-7 win over Lycoming on Saturday:

TIDE-TURNINGPLAY: Tyjah During had just given Lycoming its biggest spark of the afternoon when he returned a kickoff 59 yards to the Susquehanna 34-yard line. The Warriors were already trailing, 10-0, but the sophomore set up the Lycoming offense in prime position to cut into that lead. Then on the first play of the series, River Hawks linebacker Connor Thompson jumped in front of a slant route thrown by quarterback Elijah Shemory and returned it for a touchdown. A penalty negated that score, but it took Susquehanna just two plays to get the touchdown back, and the three-score lead for Susquehanna became quite a mountain for the Warriors to overcome.

BEST DEFENSIVE STAND: The Lycoming offense was starting to find its footing. Shemory had thrown a beautiful fade pattern to Costello in the second quarter to get Lycoming on the board. In the third quarter he had thrown back-to-back perfect passes down each sideline to Costello and Brock Zollicoffer setting up the Warriors inside the Susquehanna 5. Lycoming went back to the fade route to Costello, but Susquehanna cornerback Danial Shelton made a tremendous play on the ball an came down with an interception to halt the scoring opportunity.

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAY: Facing third-and-11 in the third quarter, Lycoming made a call to get the ball in Costello’s hands. So Shemory threw a deep ball down the right sideline. With Shelton draped all over his left arm, Shemory dropped the ball perfectly into Costello’s right arm for a one-handed catch which covered 41 yards and extended the Lycoming drive.

LOCAL ROUNDUP: Lycoming – Montoursville graduate Keith Batkowski earned his first career start at running back, carrying 11 times for 33 yards and catching a pass. The junior also had 63 kickoff return yards with a long of 49, and for good measure he recorded three tackles. Freshman quarterback Elijah Shemory had an inauspicious beginning to his career as the Jersey Shore product completed just 11 of 24 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions. Fellow Jersey Shore graduate Dom Loffredo made his return after missing all of 2017 to record two tackles. His first tackle was the 100th of his career. Hughesville graduates Trey Smith and Brad Beaver and Warrior Run graduate Pacey Howard also played for the Warriors.

Susquehanna – Warrior Run graduate Wyatt Kirkendall made a start at safety for the River Hawks, recording three tackles, including a pair of solo stops. He was also credited with a pass breakup.

LYCOMING OFFENSIVE MVP: Costello didn’t have a ton of targets early in the game, but he made his first catch on a crucial fourth-down play in the second quarter. One play later he hauled in his touchdown reception. Costello finished with four catches for 79 yards and that touchdown from Shemory, and appeared to be exactly the quality of No. 1 receiver the Warriors think they have with him. He had some legendary one-on-one battles with Shelton which made for an entertaining afternoon.

LYCOMING DEFENSIVE MVP: Korahn Williams did a little bit of everything for a defense which struggled to get stops in the first half, but seemed to settle down in the second. He recorded five solo tackles, including one for loss. He forced a fumble and recovered another for the Warriors, and was also credited with a pass breakup.

UNSUNG HERO: Receiver John Kim had a really solid fall camp for Lycoming, establishing himself as one of the top three receivers on the roster for the Warriors. He showed up Saturday with three catches for 24 yards. He also helped in the punt return game with a pair of fair catches. A strong third receiving option for Lycoming should help open up opportunities for both Costello and Zollicoffer.

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 @Mitch_Rupert.

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