Defense stands tall as Warriors beat Pride, 31-7
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – At the end of the first half, the Lycoming College football team's streak of nearly six quarters without allowing a touchdown ended, but junior safety Ray Bierbach (Hunlock Creek, Pa./Northwest) was determined to get it back, capping a 31-7 win over undefeated Middle Atlantic Conference foe Widener by racing 84 yards for a touchdown with 11 seconds left to send a Homecoming crowd of 2,786 at David Person Field away happy.
The Warriors (5-1 overall, 3-0 MAC) allowed 282 yards on a windy day in Williamsport, but allowed just 3-of-15 third-down conversions and just 1-of-3 on fourth down to help keep the Pride (3-3 overall, 2-1 MAC) off the field. Meanwhile, freshman Zach Czap (Phillipsburg, Pa./Phillipsburg-Oscelola) had a great day punting, averaging 33.5 yards on 11 points, downing five inside the 20 to keep the Pride in bad field position. Add on to that, five Warrior takeaways and the Pride offense never found its rhythm.
"We were opportunistic on offense," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "We had the big plays that we thought we could get and it played off and we played really good defense that got us really good field position in the second half."
The two teams felt each other out for the beginning minutes of the first quarter, with the Warriors and Pride each punting the ball twice before a six-play Widener drive stalled. An 18-yard punt gave the Warriors the ball at the 47-yard line before a holding penalty moved them back 10 yards. On the next play, though, sophomore quarterback Zach Klinger (Halifax, Pa./Halifax) stepped up in the pocked and he drilled a pass over the middle for senior Ryan Wagaman (Aspers, Pa./Biglerville) and Wagaman changed direction and beat the rest of the Widener secondary for a 63-yard touchdown.
"It's one of my favorite routes to run," Wagaman said. "It does take a long time to develop. It's a three-position, 15-17 yard route and it takes great protection. Zach did a great job, stepped up and threw just a phenomenal ball."
After another three-and-out forced the Pride to punt, senior Josh Kleinfelter (Bellwood, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) broke away for his 26th career touchdown on a 44-yard run.
The Warriors cut the lead to a touchdown, though, late in the second quarter, as the Pioneers ran nine plays to go 39 yards, capping the drive with a one-yard rush from Brendan Curran to cut the lead to 14-7. The Warriors were aided in the drive by two Lycoming penalties for 20 yards.
Kleinfelter ran for 62 yards in the half and Wagaman added 74 yards on three catches to pace the Lycoming offense, which produced 166 yards. Widener got 164 yards of production thanks to 91 yards passing from Chris Haupt.
In the third quarter, both teams stalled on drives that included first downs before Czap downed a punt at the 15-yard line and Haupt was intercepted by sophomore Ryan Fenningham (Philadelphia, Pa./Father Judge) at Widener's 21-yard line before returning it to the 10. Three plays later, senior T.J. Chiarolanza (Warminster, Pa./William Tenant) nailed a 27-yard field goal.
The Lycoming defense continued to hold strong, stalling the Pride's next drive at the Lycoming 28-yard line after a failed fourth-down conversion.
Czap punted a ball away to begin the fourth quarter, releasing a 37-yarder to the Widener 20. On the next play, sophomore Roger Jayne (Harvey's Lake, Pa./Lake Lehman) knocked out the ball on a Pride rushing play and covered it up himself at the 24-yard line.
On the next play, Klinger pump faked before going high over the middle to find Wagaman for his 15th career touchdown, becoming the eighth receiver in school history to reach the mark to give Lycoming a 24-7 lead.
The Pride got one more good chance to score, moving 38 yards on a pair of plays to get to the Lycoming 28-yard line, but Bierbach preserved the second-half shutout by picking a pass at the 16-yard line and chugging back, thanks to many helpful blocks along the way, all the way to the end zone to cap the win.
"The coaching staff's emphasis every week is on just getting that ball out cause you know when you get a turnover, even if your down, moment changes just like that and it helps out the offense," Bierbach said.
Kleinfelter crossed 100-yards for the fifth straight game – the most in a season in his career, as he posted 139 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He also caught two passes for three yards. Wagaman finished with five catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns. It was his second 100-yard game of the season. Sophomore Parker Showers (Aspers, Pa./Biglerville) added 10 carries for 31 yards.
Klinger finished 8-of-20 passing for 115 yards, posting two touchdowns on a day when winds gusted to 40 miles an hour.
Freshman Kabongo Bukasa (Sharon Hill, Pa./Academy Park) posted eight tackles and also had two breakups and a forced and recovered fumble. Sophomore Corey Schuster (Moosic, Pa./Riverside) added seven tackles and a breakup and Bierbach posted six tackles and the interception. Fenningham posted six tackles, an interception and both a fumble recovery and force. Jayne added six tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery. Sophomore Dillin Rudloff (Athens, Pa./Athens) also added 1.5 tackles for a loss and four tackles.
Kaiuway Boima led Widener rushing, posting 51 yards on 12 carries and Cedrick Clayton posted eight catches for 63 yards. Haupt finished 22-for-43 for 200 yards. He was intercepted twice.
Joe Wojceichowski led the Pride with eight tackles and Greg Walsh added seven. Joe Favinger posted a sack along with Shane Szumski and Favinger added two tackles for a loss.
The Warriors head to another undefeated MAC school on Saturday, Oct. 23, when they head to Doylestown, Pa., for a face-off with No. 12 Delaware Valley at 1 p.m."What else could you ask for after losing the opener," Clark said. "To come out and be in this situation - having won 4 games at home and making this a tougher place to play- to winning five in a row now, it's a major step forward. We have a huge challenge this week ahead."