WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – With just a little more than 1:30 remaining, sophomore quarterback Zach Klinger (Halifax, Pa./Halifax) steamed towards the Lycoming College football team's sideline, smashing into a Rowan tackler and sprawling out-of-bounds, reaching for the first down on a third-and-6. He got there by the length of the ball, all but assuring the Warriors a win over No. 22 Rowan to open the season in front of 2,000 fans at David Person Field.
Things changed two plays later, though, as the Profs forced a fumble and scored in just 26 seconds after starting the drive at the Lycoming 22-yard line. Louie Bianchini found Dan Reed for a 19-yard score, but a two-point conversion failed on a bobbled pass in the end zone. It wasn't until senior Phil Peterson (Villas, N.J./Lower Cape May Regional) wrapped up the ensuing onside kick that the Warriors could relax, as Lycoming head coach Mike Clark manufactured his third career win over a top-25 program with the 8-6 victory.
"It's huge for our football program," fourth-year mentor Clark said. "That is a program that has a great program and so are we. We're proud of it. Our players need to understand that. We need to believe we are going to win every time we go on the field. As a coaching staff, we think we are getting close to that mentality that we don't hope to win. We expect to win."
The Warrior defense held strong all day long, allowing just 115 total yards to the Profs (0-1 overall), who were ranked as high as 12th by Lindy's Preseason College Football publication. In all the Warriors (1-0 overall) allowed just 38 rushing yards on 35 attempts and posted six sacks, led by 1.5 from senior captain Anthony Marascio (Philadelphia, Pa./Father Judge).
"Our defensive line is really good," Clark said. "We may be small, but we can run. They are tough and athletic. That group is going to drive our offense all season. It's not just four or five guys, it's seven or eight."
Lycoming had a solid opening drive, matching 58 yards on 16 plays to set up a 25-yard field goal from sophomore Zack Czap (Phillipsburg, Pa./Phillipsburg-Oscelola). The drive featured five first downs and, in a show of things to come, six rushes by junior Parker Showers (Aspers, Pa./Biglerville).
The Profs managed some traction on their opening drive, going 48 yards on nine plays, but a sack by junior Tyler Geis (Bellwood, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) stopped the momentum and helped end the drive. From there, the teams couldn't sustain a drive of more than four plays through much of the rest of the second quarter. However, Czap, a first-team All-MAC punter as a sophomore, was able to outboot the Rowan counterpart and when a sophomore Dwight Hentz (Halifax, Pa./Halifax) sack moved Rowan into a fourth-and-19 from the five-yard line, the ensuing snap was fired out of the end zone for a safety with 2:07 left in the quarter.
After a 20-yard kickoff return by freshman Craig Needhammer (Lansdale, Pa./North Penn) to near midfield, the Warriors moved the ball down to the 19-yard line with help from a facemask penalty, setting up a 36-yarder from Czap with 32 seconds left in the half, giving the Warriors and 8-0 lead.
In the third quarter, the Warrior defense was as tenacious as ever, allowing just 33 yards in 11 plays, allowing just one first down and forcing three punts. The Profs defense also held, allowing just 46 yards to the Warriors, setting up the wild fourth quarter.
Rowan gained 70 yards on 16 plays in the fourth quarter, double its total entering the quarter, but its first nine-play drive of the half stalled at its own 35-yard line. When it got the ball back after a 3-and-out by Lycoming, the Profs moved the ball 58 yards down field to the Lycoming 12, but three straight incomplete passes, with the last broken up by freshman Ryan Mihoci (Murrysville, Pa./Franklin Regional) ending the drive with 3:56 left.
The Warriors ran the ball six straight times before fumbling the ball with 1:29 left to set up the dramatic finish.
Showers was a workhorse in the backfield for the Warriors, leading the offense with 28 carries for 94 yards and three receptions for 23 yards while Klinger finished with 11 carries for 26 yards. Klinger completed 7-of-14 passes for 45 yards. He was sacked three times but did not turn the ball over.
Junior Jarrin Campman (Clearfield, Pa./Clearfield) made three catches for 23 yards. Czap went 2-for-3 on field goals and added a solid 38.8-yard average on six punts, placing two within the 20-yard line.
Art Wright led the Rowan offense with 15 carries for 32 yards and Matt Dortch added 10 carries for 31 yards. Louie Bianchini went 7-of-14 for 80 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked six times. Dan Reed had two receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore Kabongo Bukasa (Sharon Hill, Pa./Academy Park) led the Warriors with nine tackles and a sack and Hentz posted eight tackles and two for a loss. Senior Chris Kish (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial) and junior Corey Schuster (Moosic, Pa./Riverside) each added seven stops and 0.5 for loss.
Geno Raman led Rowan with 11 stops and Dean Hammel added nine tackles and a fumble recovery.
The Warriors head to Westminster (Pa.) for a week two Presidents' Athletic Conference/Middle Atlantic Conference Challenge game on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 1 p.m.