Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lebanon Valley All Set to Host the Devils

Image courtesy of Lebanon Valley Sports Information
If You Only Know Four Things
Coaches from both LVC and FDU-Florham will wear patches in support of Coach to Cure MD, a national effort to defeat Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Eleven-year old Levi Hains will be LVC's honorary captain.
  1. The Dutchmen look to rebound following a last-minute, 44-39 loss to King's a week ago.
  2. LVC's kick return duo of Jeremy De La Cruz and Tyeair Diggs have the Dutchmen ranked second in the MAC with an average of 23 yards per return.
  3. FDU-Florham's passing attack is tops in the MAC. The Devils are averaging 318.7 yards through the air per game.
  4. Lebanon Valley has won 12 in a row over the Devils. FDU-Florham's last win in the series came in 2005.
Coach to Cure MD
The Dutchmen coaching staff will participate in LVC's eighth annual Coach to Cure MD game on Saturday, an effort by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) to raise funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Other AFCA members around the country will wear a Coach to Cure MD logo patch on the sidelines and LVC's coaches will do the same for today's contest. Fans will also have the opportunity to donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. Fans can donate to Duchenne muscular dystrophy research by either going online or by texting the word CURE to 90999 (a $5 donation will automatically be added to your next bill).

Honorary Captain
During Saturday's pregame activities, 11-year old Levi Hains will join LVC team captains Ryan Fink, Tom Gallagher, Tommy Garner, Spencer Moser, and Tyler Sterner to serve as honorary captain on Coach to Cure MD Day; Hains, a fifth-grader from South Lebanon Elementary, will serve as captain for the eighth consecutive season.

The Series
Saturday's game is the 21st meeting all-time ... LVC leads the series 15-5 and is carrying a 12-game win streak that stretches back to 2005 into the contest ... This will be the 17th consecutive meeting since the series resumed in 2001 ... The first meeting was Oct. 7, 1983 in Madison, an 18-17 LVC win ... Lebanon Valley's most recent win came in a 34-20 road victory last fall ... The Devils haven't defeated LVC since 2005 when they earned a 43-15 win at Arnold Field … The Dutchmen are 27-9 against New Jersey teams all time.

Last Year
It was an historic day for Brendon Irving as the senior tailback became Lebanon Valley's all-time career rushing leader during the team's 34-20 victory at FDU-Florham's Shields Field last fall. Irving ran for 146 yards and a touchdown to become the program's all-time leading rusher. The Dutchmen set the tone early when they marched 65 yards on the team's opening possession and scored the game's first touchdown when running back Jon Jones capped the 11-play drive with a seven yard touchdown run at the 9:52 mark of the first quarter. The Devils responded with a pair of long passes on their first possession, including a 25-yard scoring strike from quarterback Jagger Green to tailback Steve Iannone at the 7:11 mark. The ensuing PAT attempt was unsuccessful, however, and LVC held the lead. Lebanon Valley's offense got right back to work on its next possession, using its rushing attack to drive the length of the field before quarterback Tyler Sterner and wideout Michael Gaval hooked up for their third touchdown connection of the season, this time from 18 yards out to make it 14-6 Dutchmen late in the first quarter. LVC's defense made its first big play of the afternoon when strong safety Kyle Murray picked off Green looking for a receiver over the middle on a third-down pass attempt early in the second quarter. Jared Kramp made a key play on special teams when he returned an FDU punt 22 yards late in the second quarter, setting up the Dutchmen at the Devils' 30-yard line. Irving needed just one play to increase the LVC advantage as he scampered 30 yards to paydirt for his second rushing touchdown of the year with 5:02 remaining before halftime. Inside linebacker Alex Trujillo halted FDU-Florham's next drive when he picked off Green deep in Devils' territory with less than four minutes left in the quarter. Lebanon Valley used five plays to move to the one-yard line before Sterner's quarterback keeper capped the scoring drive and gave the visitors a comfortable 27-6 lead heading into the break. The Dutchmen put together another dominating drive on their first possession of the second half, driving 60 yards in 12 plays for another touchdown. This time it was do-it-all athlete Tim Pirrone scoring from six yards out in LVC's wildcat package with 6:21 remaining in the third quarter. Marcus Brown converted his fourth extra point of the day to cap the scoring for the visitors. The Devils showed signs of life by adding a second touchdown on their next possession when Green connected with wide receiver John Pellegrini for a 24-yard score at the 4:21 mark to cut the deficit to 34-13. When FDU-Florham got the ball back, they threatened early in the fourth quarter, moving inside the LVC 10-yard line. Outside linebacker Tommy Garner halted the Devil momentum, however, when he recorded the team's third interception of the day by picking off Green at the six-yard line with 13 minutes left to play. Irving set the program's all-time rushing mark on the next play and the Devils failed to muster any sort of comeback until they added a late touchdown with 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. LVC recovered the ensuing onside kick and Sterner took a couple of kneel downs to secure the victory.

Last Week
It was wild. It was thrilling. It was full of drama. It was all that and then some but unfortunately for Lebanon Valley, it was also a 44-39 last-minute loss to MAC foe King's at Arnold Field last Saturday. Trailing 38-32 with 4:34 left to play, the Flying Dutchmen began what proved to be a go-ahead scoring drive from their 47-yard line. Quarterback Tyler Sterner moved LVC in King's territory when hit wide receiver Tyler Cottle for a 16-yard gain on the drive's first play. Two plays later, he moved the offense inside the 10-yard line when hooked up with Tim Pirrone for 16 yards. One incompletion later and it was running back Ryan Fink who shimmied past a couple of Monarch defenders and into the end zone to complete the march. Marcus Brown's extra point gave the Dutchmen a one-point lead with 3:01 remaining. And that was all the time King's needed. After starting the ensuing possession at their own 25-yard line, the Monarchs marched into LVC territory where they faced a 4th-and-1 from the 31-yard line with 1:04 left on the clock. As he did for much of the game, quarterback Zach Whitehead made a play, picking up eight yards and moving his team into field goal range with less than a minute remaining. Aided by back-to-back Dutchmen facemask penalties, Whitehead plunged across the goal line on a quarterback draw from six yards out to put the visitors out in front for good with 25 seconds left. A 31-yard kick return by Tyeair Diggs and subsequent King's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the ensuing kickoff gave Lebanon Valley a chance in the closing seconds. But after a short gain on a pass to wideout Jeremy De La Cruz, Sterner was picked off on the left sideline by cornerback Eli Vascos in the final moments to seal the victory for the Monarchs. LVC won the turnover battle 4-3. All four King's TOs were fumbles. Sterner finished the day 14-30 for 232 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Pirrone was LVC's leading rusher with nine carries for 33 yards, while Fink added a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Pirrone was also the team's leading receiver with 73 yards. Pirrone, Cottle and De La Cruz each caught four balls and recorded touchdown receptions. Linebacker Tommy Garner made a team-high nine tackles, including one for loss. Tim Schumacher, Tyler Hodges, and Austin Maguire also forced fumbles, with Dylan Lobach, Spencer Moser, Trent Donlan, and Steven Salcedo making recoveries. Whitehead was King's top weapon, finishing 25-37 for 373 yards and two TDs to go along with 76 rushing yards and three scores on 22 attempts.

Zimmerman's Big Day
Senior defensive end Guy Zimmerman turned in a career-best performance during LVC's narrow loss to King's last week. He wreaked havoc in the Monarchs' backfield, racking up eight total tackles, including six solo stops, to go along with a pair of tackles for loss, one sack, a forced fumble, one pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry.

Wide Receivers Making an Impact
It had been quite a while since the Dutchmen were able to spread the ball around through the air the way they did against King's last week. Quarterback Tyler Sterner completed four passes each to wide receivers Tim Pirrone, Tyler Cottle, and Jeremy De La Cruz, with Pirrone racking up 73 yards, Cottle recording 67 yards, and De La Cruz accumulating 63 yards, respectively. Each wideout made the day that much sweeter by hauling in a touchdown pass.

Kick to Us, If You Dare
Another area in which the Dutchmen have excelled in the early portion of the season has been the kick return game. As a whole, LVC ranks second in the MAC with an average of 23 yards per kick return. Jeremy De La Cruz's 24.3 yards-per-return clip is good enough to rank him fourth in the conference, while fellow return man Tyeair Diggs ranks right behind him in fifth with a 23 yards-per-return average. De La Cruz's longest return on the year is 43 yards, while Diggs' top effort is a 31-yard return.

Noting LVC's Offense
After a rough go of it in the season opener, LVC's offense hasn't lacked the ability to put up points the last two weeks. The Dutchmen posted 36 in a shutout victory over Wilkes two weeks ago before scoring 39 against King's last Saturday. Lebanon Valley is averaging 278.7 yards of offense per game – 127.3 on the ground and 151.3 through the air. Quarterback Tyler Sterner has thrown for 419 yards and five touchdowns, while tailback Jon Jones is the team's leading rusher with 94 yards and a touchdown. Do-it-all weapon Tim Pirrone is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, while running back Ryan Fink has a pair of rushing touchdowns to his credit. Wide receivers Jeremy De La Cruz and Pirrone have each surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark, with De La Cruz leading the team with three receiving touchdowns. LVC will look to get back to protecting the ball after turning it over three times in the loss to King's last week.

Noting LVC's Defense
The Dutchmen had their hands full against King's high-powered offense last week but after struggling in the first half, made adjustments and wreaked havoc by forcing three fumbles in the third quarter. LVC is surrendering 30.7 points per game and 347.7 yards of total offense per contest; numbers the team surely wants to decrease in the coming weeks. While the unit has been solid against the run, the defense has struggled against the pass and has allowed 227 yards through the air per outing. Linebacker Tom Gallagher is the team's top tackler with 17 stops, while fellow linebacker Tyler Hodges leads the group with 3.5 tackles for loss. Defensive ends Guy Zimmerman, Austin Maguire, and Nick Newton have each posted a sack, with Zimmerman filling up the stat sheet thanks to three TFL, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a quarterback hurry. Fellow defensive lineman Trent Donlanhas had a nose for the ball in recovering three fumbles, while cornerback Nick Tucker and linebacker Tyler Lutz have each recorded an interception. So far this season, LVC has forced nine fumbles and recovered eight of them.

Noting LVC's Special Teams
The Dutchmen have one of the top kick return units in the MAC, as Jeremy De La Cruz and Tyeair Diggs are both averaging more than 20 yards per return. Tim Schumacher has also been solid on punt returns, averaging more than 11 yards per attempt so far this season. Dylan Lobach's punt block against King's last week was the team's first of the year, while Jacob Whitfield recorded a block of an extra-point attempt in the season opener against Franklin & Marshall. Adam Domovich has settled nicely into the role of punter, averaging more than 32 yards per attempt on 13 total kicks, including two that have been downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Marcus Brown is 3-4 on field goal attempts so far this season, with his longest make coming from 37 yards out. Nick Bentz has looked very good on kickoff attempts, as he's averaging more than 60 yards per kick, with six of his attempts resulting in touchbacks.

Scouting FDU-Florham

FDU-Florham shares an overall record identical to that of LVC's at 1-2. The Devils are still looking for their first conference victory after running into MAC frontrunners Widener and Stevenson in the early portion of the season. FDU-Florham is averaging 357.7 yards of total offense per game but most of the team's damage is getting done through the air. Quarterback Jagger Green has already thrown for 941 yards and five touchdowns on the year, while completing nearly 63 percent of his passes. Running back Steve Iannone is the team's leading rusher but he's racked up just 49 yards on 15 attempts, while averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. Wideouts Malik Pressley and Mike Panzarino have both accumulated more than 200 yards receiving, with Pressley having pulled in three touchdowns. The Devils' defense has struggled a bit and is allowing 445.7 total yards per contest and 143 yards per game on the ground. Linebacker Isaiah Turner is the team's leading tackler with 38 stops, while defensive lineman Robert Planter has a team-high two sacks. Planter and linebacker Mihajlo Simakoski have each forced a fumble, while cornerback Shyheim Outland and linebacker Shaun Benford have accounted for the team's pair of interceptions.

Devils' Dangerous Offense
FDU-Florham has already seen two of its most potent offensive weapons in quarterback Jagger Green and wide receiver Malik Pressley receive recognition for their strong starts to the season. Green was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Week following the team's season-opening victory over TCNJ. He completed 69 percent of his passes and threw for a school-record 593 yards and five touchdowns in the win. Pressley earned a spot on the Team of the Week after hauling in 16 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the win over TCNJ. He became the program's career leader in receptions in the week one victory.

Who's Next?
The Dutchmen hit the road for the first time in three weeks when they travel to Widener on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 30.

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