LHU downs WVSU
Written by: William Albright on Sunday, September 8th, 2013
By BILL ALBRIGHT
LOCK HAVEN — Involved in a back-and-forth scrap with West Virginia State University, the Lock Haven University Bald Eagle football team exploded for 28 unanswered points in the third quarter to roll to a 31-13 win over the Yellow Jackets at sun-splashed Jack Stadium Saturday afternoon.
For the Bald Eagles, the win was their second in a row for the program on the heels of a season-ending victory over Cheyney to close out the 2012 campaign.
“It really feels good,” said LHU head coach John Allen with a big smile on his face. “The first quarter was about feeling them out and we just had to settle in on what they were doing. They did some things we were expecting and they also did some things that were a little bit different. It just took us a little bit to adjust to it and once we figured it out near the end of the second quarter, we were able to go in at halftime and make some adjustments. It was just a fun win and two-and-oh, yeah it does feel good.”
After two possessions by each team proved absolutely nothing, the Bald Eagles caught a break when a LHU punt was muffed and recovered by Jordan Stouch on the WVSU 8-yard-line.
Three plays only netted the Bald Eagles two yards and that brought Alex Boumerhi on the scene for a 28-yard field goal and a 3-0 LHU lead.
However, on their next possession, the Jackets answered Boumerhi’s three-pointer with a 25-yarder by Josh Reuber two minutes into the second period for 3-all tie.
Following the pair of three-pointers the Bald Eagles appeared to have received a huge break when WVSU punter went to his knees to corral a low snap on the Jacket 43.
On the first play following the mistake, LHU went for the juggler and Caleb Walton’s pass was picked off by Haley Romell in the end zone for a touchback.
After dodging the bullet, the Jackets put together a drive that carried them from their own 20 to the Bald Eagle 5-yard line where Reuber nailed his second field goal of the game, a 22-yard effort to give the Jackets a 6-3 lead at the break.
In the first half, the Yellow Jackets showed a huge advantage in terms of offensive performance as they ran 44 plays for a net of 240 yards, while the Bald Eagles could only show 63 yards on 24 tries. Just as successful as they were in the first half, the Jackets found themselves completely bottled up by the LHU defense in the final 30 minutes.
“Defensively we played hard all the way through,” Allen said. “I can’t say enough about the job those guys (on defense) did. They (WVSU) got down in the green zone a couple of times and we held them to a pair of field goals and we blocked one. It was just a great performance by all of those guys.”
The guy leading the defensive unit most of the afternoon was junior defensive back George Christas (Dallastown) with a dozen tackles (9 solo shots). In addition to his stops, Christas was also credited with a tackle for loss and a pair of pass breakups.
“Just flying around and doing my assignments,” said Christas about his success. “I didn’t play outside our defense and as long as we stay inside our defense by doing what we are supposed to do, we are going to be in position to make the plays.”
As for facing an offense that you know very little about, Christas said that really didn’t make much difference to him and his fellow defenders.
“To be honest about it, we had very little film on these guys,” he said. “It was tough preparing for them, but having played a lot of tough teams in our conference, we have seen just about every type of offense that anybody can throw at us from the wing-t to the spread. With that, all we could do was go out and play defense the way we know to play it.”
As for the defensive turnaround and the explosion by the offense, Allen said it was just a matter of making a few adjustments and then executing.
“There wasn’t really much to say to them at halftime,” he said. “It was more about, hey, we know where we are and although it took us a little longer offensively to figure out where we needed to go, we felt good about where we were and the guys were confident in what we wanted to do. Once we got out there and made a few plays, all of a sudden things just started clicking and what was happening felt comfortable to them.”
The Bald Eagles came out of the locker room and took their first possession to the house, quarterback Dillon Mazzoni hitting a wide open Jesse Hoover for 32 yards and LHU’s first TD of the season. Boumerhi’s PAT made it 10-6 Eagles less than three minutes into the third period.
“We saw on film that into the boundary with trips they would play a hard cover 2 and the corner comes down as soon as he sees the guy bubble,” explained Hoover. “When that happens, we knew we could get behind him (the cornerback).”
Making sure to get the ball to Hoover, quarterback Dillon Maazzoni put plenty of air under the throw that might have given Hoover a few anxious moments.
“That is the worst feeling in the world when the ball hangs up there like that,” Hoover said. “After the play, I came over and asked Dill what was going on, but we made the connection and that is all that matters.”
For Hoover, a graduate student from Curwensville, the two wins in a row mean a lot to him with what he has gone through for much of his career at LHU.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game, but right now, it feels great,” he said. “We knew if we executed the game plan we could win and we were able to do that.”
While LHU’s initial possession of the second half went well, WVSU’s didn’t.
Faced with a punting situation deep in WVSU territory, the punter was called for an illegal kick at the Jacket 8-yard line when he booted the ball through the end zone.
On the first play from the 3-yard stripe, Brandon Brader scooted into the end zone for LHU’s second touchdown in less than four minutes. Boumerhi made it 17-6 LHU less than five minutes into the third period.
“The thing that is different from a year ago is when we got the ball in a situation like that on the three-yard line, we put the ball in the end zone,” Allen said. “The biggest difference in from the last couple of years is that we are able to capitalize on (opponent’s) mistakes and that was exciting to see.”
Held to just 25 yards in the first half, Brader (Bethlehem Liberty) was able to turn things up a little in the second half to finish with 66 net yards. The total has Brader perched in seventh place in the LHU all-time rushing list with 1,893 yards.
“I think the problem was that they (WVSU) came out and had a great game plan,” said Brader about his slow start. “We just had to get things straightened out up front and once we did that, we were able to show them what we could do. It was just a bunch of little things that had to come together for the big things to happen.”
So what does winning the season opener mean to Brader?
“It just feels awesome,” he said. “I never started my season (at LHU) off with a win. Every year I came in here it was losing, losing, losing and we finally got everybody together on the same page and now we are just ready to win football games.”
On their next possession, the Bald Eagles, aided by several WVSU mistakes, kept the offense in high gear as they scored for the third time in less than nine minutes, Brader bulling in from three yards out for the score. Boumerhi was again perfect and just like that, the Bald Eagle lead ballooned to 24-6 with 6:22 left before the turn for home.
The LHU offensive caravan kept moving on its next possession as it completed a 28-point third quarter when Mazzoni hit James Wilbern in stride for a 51-yard TD connection and the rout was on.
The Yellow Jackets picked up their only touchdown of the game with less than three minutes left on the clock to set the final.
Now 1-1, LHU turns its attention to a familiar PSAC-West foe for its next game when the Bald Eagles travel to Clarion Saturday for a 6 p.m. meeting with the Golden Eagles.
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