Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lebanon Valley Football - Ground Game Breaks Out In Football's MAC Opener

Photo Courtesy of Lebanon Valley Athletics
How It Happened - Lebanon Valley 38, Wilkes 20
Lebanon Valley used a dominant run game to defeat Wilkes 38-20 under the lights at Arnold Field in the team's home opener on Saturday night, Sept. 10.

The Flying Dutchmen (1-1, 1-0 MAC) put together an impressive six-play drive to begin the game that saw Brendon Irving rush three times for 30 yards before Jon Jones scampered off right end, raced 27 yards down the sideline, and jaunted across the goal line to put LVC on the board first.

It was more of the same on the team's next possession as Irving, Jones, and quarterback Tim Pirrone combined to rush eight times for 59 yards. Jones capped the series with his second touchdown run of the first quarter, this time from 24 yards out.

LVC took advantage of good field position early in the second quarter and marched 44 yards to paydirt. The key play came when Pirrone hit tight end Dylan Berberick for 21 yards to set up the Dutchmen inside the 10-yardline. Ryan Fink forced his way across the goal line three plays later to give Lebanon Valley a 21-0 lead with 11:39 left in the first half.

The Colonels (0-2, 0-1 MAC) showed signs of life when they drove 70 yards in 11 plays on their next possession, culminating with a Ryan Dailey touchdown pass to tight end Garrett Armstrong from five yards out that got Wilkes on the board before the break.

The Dutchmen answered with a methodical 15-play, 71-yard drive that was capped by Marcus Brown's 22-yard field goal. The score gave LVC a 17-point cushion heading into halftime.

It took Lebanon Valley four plays to increase its lead to 31-7, as the team moved the ball 70 yards on its first series of the third quarter. A hustle play by Gary Wise paid off in a big way when he ran stride for stride with Fink as he sprinted towards the end zone before recovering the tailback's ensuing fumble that bounced into the end zone with 12:25 remaining in the period.

Wilkes took advantage of the lone Dutchmen turnover on the night, a fumbled punt, by driving 46 yards in nine plays and punching it into the end zone when Dailey kept the ball and rushed across the goal line at the 7:35 mark.

LVC wasn't done, however, and Wise put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter when he hauled in a well-placed fourth-down lob from Pirrone near the right sideline and stretched for the corner pylon with 11:23 left to make it 38-14.

The visitors added a late touchdown but cornerback Spencer Moser and middle linebacker Tom Gallagher put an exclamation point on the defensive effort when Moser tipped the ensuing two-point conversion attempt into the air before Gallagher picked it off with 2:30 remaining in the game.

Pounding the Rock
The Dutchmen ran the ball 57 times for 369 yards on Saturday night, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt. The dominant performance saw Ryan Fink rush 10 times for 109 yards and a touchdown, while Brendon Irvingnarrowly missed reaching the 100-yard mark with 96 markers on 19 attempts. Jon Jones scampered for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13 carries, while Steve Salerno made the most of his playing time by rushing six times for 48 yards (7.7 ypc) capped by a crushing game-ending run that saw him remove a Colonel defender's helmet from his head. Quarterback Tim Pirrone showed off his dual-threat ability by taking off seven times and picking up 39 yards in the process.

No Fly Zone
LVC's defense shined bright under the lights, especially in the turnover department. The Dutchmen picked off four Ryan Dailey passes, starting with Tommy Garner's first-quarter interception. Mike Gilger got into the action with 3:44 left in the third quarter and Alex Trujillo picked off Dailey at the Wilkes 41-yardline on the Colonels' next possession. Brendan Yetter capped the defense's big night with a leaping pick at midfield that he returned 25 yards early in the fourth quarter, forcing Dailey from the game in the process.

First of Many
Saturday night's victory was the first for Joe Buehler '89 since taking over as LVC head coach following the retirement of the program's all-time winningest coach Jim Monos last fall.

LVC continued its strong efforts in night games, improving to 26-16-4 all-time in contests under the lights. Saturday's contest was the team's first night game since playing at Widener last fall, it was the team's first home night game since hosting Franklin & Marshall in the season opener last September, and it was the team's first home game victory in prime time since defeating Montclair State at Arnold Field to being the 2013 campaign.

The Streak Continues
In a series that has had a way of producing extended win streaks for one side and longstanding losing skids for the other, LVC's latest victory is the program's sixth in a row over the Colonels dating back to 2011; the team's longest since defeating Wilkes eight consecutive times between 1955 and 1964.

Inside the Numbers
- Tim Pirrone finished 5-13 for 84 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed seven times for 39 yards.
- Michael Gaval was LVC's leading receiver with a pair of receptions for 25 yards.
- Safety Kyle Murray was the team's leading tackler. He made five stops and added a pass breakup.
- Linebacker Dylan Lobach and defensive tackle Ryan Johnson each tallied a tackle for loss.
- Linebacker Tom Gallagher and defensive end Adam Wagaman each recorded one quarterback hurry.
- With the win, LVC improved to 3-2 in its last five conference openers.
- Lebanon Valley racked up 453 yards of total offense, compared to just 311 for the Colonels.
- Penalties hurt Wilkes as the visitors committed nine for more than 100 yards. The Dutchmen were fairly clean, committing just four penalties for 45 yards.
- Kicker Marcus Brown was 5-5 on extra-point attempts and was true on his first field goal attempt of the season (22 yards).

Who's Next?
The Dutchmen continue MAC play at Stevenson next Saturday afternoon, Sept. 17. LVC will look to avenge a 17-14 loss to the Mustangs at Arnold Field last fall.
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