Friday, November 10, 2017

Bowl Berth On the Line In The Rivalry's 97th Meeting of Albright and Lebanon Valley - The Ultimate MAC Game

A "Game of the Week" photo
Lebanon Valley (5-4, 5-3 MAC) at Albright (7-2, 6-2 MAC)
Saturday, Nov. 11 / 1 p.m. / Shirk Stadium / The 97th Meeting

Lebanon Valley and Albright will hook up for the 97th time in the history of The Rivalry when the Flying Dutchmen travel to Reading for the team's regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon. The squads have a chance to secure a bowl berth with a victory.

If You Only Know Five Things
  1. Lebanon Valley defeated Lycoming 20-17 in its most recent outing last weekend.
  2. The Dutchmen and Albright are meeting for the 97th time. It is the oldest and most-played rivalry in LVC football, having first met in 1898.
  3. Tradition holds that an LVC victory over Albright results in students getting the day before Thanksgiving off from school, but only if they march en masse to the president's residence, Kreiderheim, to request it.
  4. The Dutchmen have recovered 16 fumbles on the season; a number that ranks first in the MAC. 
  5. The winner of Saturday's game will most likely clinch a spot in the upcoming Centennial-MAC Bowl Series.
The Rivalry
Saturday's contest is the 97th meeting in the rivalry ... Albright leads 60-33-3 ... It is the most-played rivalry in LVC history, and the oldest continuous, having been played every year since 1947 (excluding World War II years, it has been going every year since 1924) ... The first meeting was a 10-3 LVC win on Nov. 2, 1898 ... An unknown dispute led to a gap in the series between 1903 and 1912, despite the fact that Albright at that time was located in Myerstown in Lebanon County … The Dutchmen won the most recent meeting in thrilling fashion at Arnold Field last fall.

The Tradition
Tradition holds that if Lebanon Valley beats Albright, its oldest rival, then the LVC student body is to march up the hill to the home of President Lewis Thayne, Kreiderheim, and request the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 22) off from school. That day is scheduled to be a half-day of classes. Last year was first time since 2011 that an orderly mob of Dutchmen, led by the football team and Annville police and fire personnel, marched from Arnold Field up the hill to Kreiderheim, where they were granted the day off by President Thayne.

Last Year
LVC stunned its longtime rival 28-25 at Arnold Field last fall. Lebanon Valley took an early lead, the Lions roared back to take the advantage, and the Dutchmen answered with a clutch game-winning drive that preceded Anthony Jenkins' block of Albright's game-tying field goal attempt as time expired. A rabid frenzy was set off following what has gone down in LVC lore as "the block" as students stormed the field to celebrate with players, coaches, and alumni before the celebration culminated with a Gatorade bath for first-year head coach Joe Buehler '89. Kicker Kevin Goetz set up for a potential game-tying, 39-yard field goal with four seconds left to play. After Buehler burned a timeout to ice the Lions' special teams unit, Jenkins burst through the middle of the line and stuffed Goetz's kick to preserve the heart-stopping victory. Trailing 25-21 with 4:25 remaining, the Dutchmen marched 75 yards during a statement-making final drive that saw quarterback Tyler Sterner complete four passes for 36 yards and rush for 11 more before Tim Pirrone's three-yard quarterback sneak reclaimed the lead for LVC with 1:02 left to play. The possession chewed up more than three minutes of clock in crunch time. Tommy Garner and Austin Maguire made huge defensive plays in the fourth quarter as each player forced a fumble to stop Albright drives. Ryan Johnson recovered the fumble caused by Garner with 11:31 remaining after Wyett McLeod jumped on the loose ball forced by Maguire just 37 seconds into the final period. The Lions erased a 21-10 halftime deficit by scoring touchdowns on each of their first two second-half possessions. A three-yard halfback pass from Brian Wickkiser to Malik Jackson put Albright ahead 25-21 at the 5:41 mark after the visitors capped a 10-play, 72-yard drive with Roemello Monroe's seven-yard touchdown run off left end, followed by a two-point conversion, 4:30 into the third quarter. The Dutchmen scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to erase an early seven-point deficit. The equalizer came following a Spencer Moser punt that was muffed by Kyle Dickerson and recovered by Tyler Hodges at the Albright 10-yard line. Pirrone hooked up with tight end Trey Manning on the next play to even the score. Alex Trujillo picked off quarterback Alec Vignola on the Lions' ensuing possession, setting up the offense in Albright territory for the second time in as many chances. Facing a 2nd and 10, Sterner found Michael Gaval, his favorite target, for a 26-yard pitch and catch that put LVC out in front for the first time with 9:26 remaining in the second quarter. A Jermaine McQueen sack of Vignola forced the Lions to punt on their next drive and the Dutchmen put together their most impressive march of the season; a commanding 16-play, 68-yard drive that ended when Sterner rushed for a three-yard touchdown that made it 21-7 after the drive ate up more than six minutes of clock. The Lions were aided by a personal foul penalty and converted a 32-yard field goal as the first half ran out. Albright got on the board first when the offense marched 68 yards in seven plays on its opening possession, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Vignola to Dickerson at the 10:08 mark of the first quarter.

Last Week
Lebanon Valley used a bruising run game and a defense that made timely plays to hold off Lycoming on Saturday afternoon. The Flying Dutchmen claimed a 20-17 victory on Senior Day at Arnold Field to keep their postseason chances alive. Clinging to a three-point lead with less than a minute remaining, the defense was called upon to seal the win and the unit answered the call when linebacker Tim Schumacher forced a third-down fumble on Lyco's side of midfield. The Warriors recovered the loose ball but gave up precious field position and quarterback Chase Williams' fourth-down attempt was dropped near midfield with eight seconds left, sealing the victory for LVC. Leading 20-10, the Dutchmen seemed to be in control when they had Lycoming pinned at its own one-yard line following a beautiful punt by Adam Domovich with just 3:39 remaining. The Warriors turned things around with one big play, however, when Williams connected with wideout Nick Costello for a 99-yard catch and run down the Lyco sideline. Quarterback Tyler Sterner gave Lebanon Valley its largest lead of the game when he ran a draw play to perfection and crossed the goal line from four yards out midway through the fourth quarter. The touchdown run capped an eight-play, 61-yard drive with 8:14 left to play following a key, 23-yard end-around run by Tim Pirrone to begin the march. Kicker Marcus Brownconverted the second of his two field goals on the day when he buried a 30 yarder to finish off LVC's opening possession of the second half; an impressive drive that lasted 15 plays and went 62 yards in 7:13. The Warriors cut the deficit to 13-10 early in the fourth quarter when Jamie Fisher converted an attempt from 39 yards away with 12:49 remaining. After forcing the visitors to go three and out on their opening possession, LVC started the scoring with a 12-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a 12-yard strike from Sterner to Pirrone at the 7:23 mark of the first quarter. Lycoming tied it up early in the second quarter when running back Sam Dressler finished off an eight-play, 51-yard scoring march with a four-yard touchdown scamper at the 12:26 mark. A missed field goal by the Warriors with 4:45 left before halftime allowed the Dutchmen to move into Lyco territory, convert a 24-yard field goal, and take a slim 10-7 lead into the break.

Kick to Us, If You Dare
The area in which the Dutchmen have most excelled to this point in the season has been the kick return game. As a whole, LVC leads the MAC with an average of 22.2 yards per kick return. Jeremy De La Cruz's 24.4 yards-per-return clip is good enough to rank him second in the conference, while fellow return man Tyeair Diggs also ranks top-five in the league with a 22.2 yards-per-return average. De La Cruz's longest return on the year is 43 yards, while Diggs' top effort is a 35-yard return.

No Fly Zone
LVC currently ranks fourth in the MAC with 11 total picks on the season. Linebackers Tim Schumacher and Tyler Lutzhave each pulled in a pair of interceptions this fall, while safeties Zachary Adams and Anthony Jenkins have also recorded two picks so far this year. Defensive backs Nick Tucker, Blake Lutz, and Mike Gilger all have one interception apiece this season.

On the Ball
Lebanon Valley has forced and recovered four fumbles in a game on two occasions so far this season. That number is the most of any team in a single contest in the conference this year. The Dutchmen came away with four fumbles during their Homecoming victory over Stevenson, as well as against King's in September. LVC also recovered three loose balls in a shutout victory over Wilkes on Sept. 9. For the year, the Dutchmen have come away with 16 total fumbles.

Noting LVC's Offense
Lebanon Valley is averaging 296.1 yards of total offense per contest, with 168.3 of them coming on the ground and 127.8 of them coming in the passing game. The run game has featured a number of backs getting significant time, with Jon Jones leading the way with 426 yards and three touchdowns. Hunter Wilson's role has expanded as of late and the freshman has rushed for 129 yards in five outings. Quarterback Tyler Sterner is completing 48.5 percent of his attempts. He's thrown for 1,059 yards and eight touchdowns. Tim Pirrone is the team's leading wide receiver, with 254 yards and four TDs, while wideout Jeremy De La Cruz has racked up 241 receiving yards and four touchdowns. This fall, the Dutchmen have lost eight fumbles and thrown four picks.

Noting LVC's Defense
The Dutchmen are surrendering 23.3 points per game, as well as 348.9 yards of total offense to the opposition. LVC is allowing 215.6 yards through the air per outing, while giving up 129.1 yards on the ground per game. Linebacker Tim Schumacher's 49 tackles leads the team, while fellow linebackers Tom Gallagher, Tommy Garner, and Tyler Lutzhave all made 30-plus stops. Defensive lineman Guy Zimmerman's three sacks are tops among Dutchmen, while Zimmerman, defensive end Austin Maguire, Garner, and Hodges have all made at least three TFL. LVC has forced 16 fumbles, with Schumacher responsible for five of them, while Schumacher, Lutz, and safeties Zachary Adams and Anthony Jenkins lead the team with two interceptions each. This fall, LVC has forced 27 turnovers to record an outstanding plus-15 TO differential.

Noting LVC's Special Teams

The Dutchmen have the top kick return unit in the MAC, as Jeremy De La Cruz and Tyeair Diggs are both averaging more than 22 yards per return. Tim Schumacher has also been solid on punt returns, averaging more than 10 yards per attempt so far this season. Tyler Hodges has the team's most recent punt block, 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 34 yards per attempt on 44 total kicks, including 12 that have been downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Marcus Brown is 10-13 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 10 of his attempts resulting in touchbacks.

Scouting Albright
Albright is putting up nearly 29 points and 373 yards per game. Quarterback Alec Vignola has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns this fall. He is also completing nearly 60 percent of his passes. Running back Nigel Sealey is the team's leading rusher with 262 yards and four scores on the ground. Wide receiver Malik Jackson is the team's top pass catcher, pulling in 47 receptions for 708 yards and five touchdowns. Linebacker Grant Boehler leads the team with 63 tackles, while defensive lineman Isaiah Baylor leads the way with seven sacks for the Lions. Albright is currently plus-one in the turnover department.

Season Recap
The Dutchmen will end the regular season of their 120th campaign in program history at 6-4 overall and 6-3 in MAC play or 5-5 overall and 5-4 in conference play. Saturday's contest wraps up Joe Buehler's '89 second season as LVC head coach.

Pushing For the Postseason
Thanks to a 5-3 record in conference play and all-important conference victories over Stevenson and Lycoming, Lebanon Valley finds itself in the thick of the playoff hunt with one game left in the regular season. Following a successful introduction in 2015, the MAC and Centennial Conference have announced the return of the Centennial-MAC Bowl Series for the third postseason in a row. The bowl games will take place on Saturday, Nov. 18 at locations to be determined following the final weekend of the regular season. The bowl games will pit the top two teams from each conference that are not selected to the NCAA Division III Championship against each other. The top team from each conference that is not selected to the NCAA Championship will host the second best team from the opposing conference not moving on to NCAAs in one game of the series. The Dutchmen currently sit fourth in the MAC standings. A victory to end the season would give the team a shot at its first postseason appearance since winning the MAC Championship in 2013.

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