ANNVILLE, Pa. – A furious fourth-quarter comeback by Stevenson University came up short as Lebanon Valley College held on for a 31-24 win in Middle Atlantic Conference football Saturday afternoon.
Stevenson (3-3, 3-2 MAC) trailed 31-14 with 12:33 left after Lebanon Valley (3-3, 3-2 MAC) scored a touchdown on a two-yard run by Tyler Sterner. The Mustangs risked going down further as junior Dan Williams threw an interception, giving the hosts the ball at their own 42 with 12:10 to go.
After Stevenson forced a three-and-out and got the ball at its own 17 following a punt, the Mustangs engineered a 15-play, 83-yard drive capped by a two-yard touchdown run by TJ Massey to pull within 31-21 with 6:00 remaining.
The Mustangs attempted an onside kick after a roughing the kicker penalty on the PAT try put the ball at midfield, and David Downs III was able to recover at Lebanon Valley's 39. Stevenson got down to the LVC 3 before the drive sputtered and a six-yard loss on third-and-goal forced the Mustangs to kick a 26-yard field goal, which freshman Ian Gould buried to make it a one-score game at the 3:27 mark.
Lebanon Valley was again conservative, running three plays for a total gain of one yard after an eight-yard loss on first-and-10, with Stevenson calling two of its three timeouts after the LVC runner was pushed out of bounds on third down. The Mustangs got the ball back with 2:25 left and one timeout on its own 39.
After Williams completed a 10-yard pass to senior Preston Addo to get the Mustangs to midfield, back-to-back incompletions made it 3rd and 10 before a 19-yard completion to junior Sebastian Vainqueur put the visitors into LVC territory with 1:39 to go. After another completion to Vainqueur to get down to the 27, Williams threw an interception at the goal line to seal the win for the Dutchmen.
Stevenson took a 7-0 lead with 4:41 to go in the first quarter as Williams found Vainqueur for a 38-yard completion. On the play, the Mustangs showed run as Williams handed off to junior Isaiah Austin. Austin handed off to senior Devin Salisbury running a reverse, then Salisbury gave the ball back to Williams who threw deep to put the Mustangs on top.
Lebanon Valley was driving on the ensuing series, getting down to the Mustang 28, but a pass into the end zone was picked off by junior DJ Broxton on the second play of the second quarter, Broxton's third interception of the season. It also gave Stevenson a takeaway in its 50th straight game.
However, the Dutchmen got the ball back on the Stevenson 6 three plays later as Williams was sacked and fumbled, with LVC recovering. A six-yard run on the first play of the drive tied the contest 1:33 into the second quarter.
After going three-and-out on its next drive, Stevenson's punt at the 18 was blocked and recovered by Lebanon Valley at the Mustang 12. Again, taking just one play, a 12-yard rush put the hosts on top with 11:57 to go.
Another fumble, this one coming on the kick return following the score, again gave Lebanon Valley excellent field position as it started at the Stevenson 21. On 1st-and-20 following a holding penalty after the Dutchmen had come up with a first down, a 21-yard completion made it 21-7 with 8:50 on the clock. That would be the halftime score.
Stevenson used a takeaway of its own to cut the lead to 21-14 with 12:10 left in the third. The Dutchmen tried a lateral in the backfield but the intended runner was hit by senior Kyle Pleet, creating a loose ball. The bouncing ball was picked up by senior Cory Pietrzyk, who ran in 25 yards for the score, his second career touchdown.
Lebanon Valley drove down to the Mustang 35 on its next drive, but a Stevenson stop on 4th-and-2 gave the ball back to the guests. Stevenson drove into LVC territory, but an interception by Lebanon Valley's Tim Schumacher and ensuing 42 yard return put the Dutchmen at Stevenson's 22. Stevenson was able to hold LVC to a field goal to make it a 24-14 game with 4:08 left in the third.
Stevenson committed three turnovers in the first half and seven for the game while coming up with a pair of takeaways. Williams finished 25-43 passing for 238 yards while throwing three interceptions. Salisbury and Addo each had seven receptions, while Vainqueur had six catches for 86 yards. Austin rushed 18 times for 71 yards.
Defensively, Pietrzyk finished with 12 tackles (11 solo) and a pass breakup in addition to his fumble recovery touchdown, while junior Ashton Leschke had six tackles. Peyton Lepere, Brian Latham and Shaviah Coleman each added four tackles.
Stevenson outgained Lebanon Valley 330-244, but with the turnovers, LVC's average drive started at its own 49, while Stevenson's average start was its own 26. The Mustangs started just once in enemy territory, while the Dutchmen started five times on Stevenson's end. LVC also controlled the ball for nearly 18 minutes in the first half and just under 35 minutes (34:41) for the game.
Stevenson returns to action next Saturday when it hosts Albright College in a 1:00 Homecoming contest at Mustang Stadium. That game is sold out, but can be seen at gomustangsports.tv.