Thursday, October 24, 2013

Albright Football Faces Crucial Road Test at Lycoming

Devron Clark

Albright College won its third straight game last Saturday, with a 30-12 Homecoming victory over Wilkes University.

Senior Devron Clark caught nine passes for 193 yards, while classmate Daniel McNair totaled five catches, 86 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback TJ Luddy had his third straight big game with 343 yards on 23-of-36 passes, with three TDs and no interceptions. Luddy also had a fantastic day punting, putting all four of his kicks inside the 20. He averaged 44.5 yards despite one pooch kick, and uncorked a 61-yarder in the first half.

Defensively, the secondary had a big day with Matthew Hnatiuk (13) and Levi Myers (10) turning in double-digit tackles. Drew Peterson intercepted his sixth pass of the season.


Lycoming scored 29 straight points to erase a promising Lion start as Albright lost 29-14, last season in the 62nd annual Pretzel Bowl.

Both teams struggled to move the ball as defenses were stout throughout. Albright's Nick Gjoni (4 tackles for loss, forced fumble) and Lycoming's Kabongo Bukasa (6 tackles, game-clinching strip) were rewarded with Game MVP honors.

The Lions totaled just 40 yards on the ground and 247 total. Lycoming had 243 yards of total offense but held the ball for almost 31 of 45 minutes after a first quarter that was all Albright.

Lycoming's statistical leaders didn't put up big yardage but made plays when it counted. Quarterback Tyler Jenny was 11-for-17 for 75 yards and two scores. Jarrin Campman caught five balls for 30 yards and two TDs, and Parker Showers rushed for 70 yards and found the end zone once. The Albright offense fell off in the second half, as TJ Luddy threw a pair of interceptions that were returned to the two-yard line (by Tanner Troutman and Matt Talerico).


This Saturday will be Lycoming's Homecoming.  Albright is playing a fourth consecutive Homecoming game and has won the first three, defeating King's and FDU-Florham on the road before winning their own Homecoming game at Shirk Stadium last weekend.


After a week one victory over Kean University, Albright kicker Daniel Sobolewski (three FGs, 3-3 PATs, 2 touchbacks) was named a BSN National Special Teams Player of the Week, the USA College Football National Special Teams Player of the Week, and was listed on the Team of the Week. Safety Drew Peterson (two interceptions) was also named to the Team of the Week, and earned honorable mention honors from USA College Football.

Chris Stephens earned an honorable mention USA College Football nod last week after blocking a punt and recovering in the end zone vs. King's. TJ Luddy was mentioned last week after his punting performance vs. Wilkes.


The Lions were well-represented on 2013 Preseason All-American teams, with three players receiving a total of six selections. Senior safety Drew Peterson was a first team USA College Football, second team D3 Senior Classic and third team BSN Preseason All-American. Fifth-year senior Matt Pattison earned second team USA College Football and honorable mention D3 Senior Classic honors, and senior tight end Eric Wade was a fourth team USA College Football selection.


Lycoming holds a 34-17-2 advantage in a long-time MAC rivalry that dates back to 1957. The teams met in the 1996 NCAA quarterfinals, a 31-13 Lyco victory.


John Marzka, in his seventh season at Albright, holds a career mark of 49-24. Mike Clark, also the Lycoming Athletic Director, is in his sixth season as head coach. They actually contested the 1990 NCAA Division III national championship game as offensive linemen, with Marzka's Allegheny College winning 21-14 in overtime over Clark's Lycoming team.


Albright has the second-highest scoring offense in the MAC (32.5 ppg) and ranks second in total offense (416.3 ypg). Quarterback TJ Luddy has completed 60.8% of his passes for 1479 yards, 9 TDs and 4 INTs on the season. Fifth-year senior Ty Hughes has rushed for 588 yards and nine scores.


Senior safety Drew Peterson has six interceptions, which currently puts him as the national leader in that category. He has exactly 100 return yards off those picks, with his fourth career TD against FDU-Florham. Safety Matthew Hnatiuk (51 tackles, 31 solo) and cornerback Levi Myers (49 tackles, 33 solo) lead the squad in tackles.


In his second season as a starter, junior quarterback Tyler Jenny has completed 64.7% of his passes for 8 TDs and 6 picks. Running back Craig Needhammer has 702 yards and 6 TDs on 133 carries.


The Lycoming defense has been among the region's best for a long time, producing four All-Americans in the last three seasons and the last two MAC Defensive Players of the Year. This season, the Warriors are tied with Albright for second in the MAC in points allowed (17.7/game). Safety Tanner Troutman was a Preseason All-American and has totaled four interceptions in six games. 2012 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Kabongo Bukasa has 29 tackles and 1.5 sacks on the year.


Two of the four Division III athletes named to the Fred Mitchell Award September Recognition List came from the Middle Atlantic Conference. The Mitchell Award is given to the nation's top collegiate place-kicker among more than 750 FCS, Division II, III, NAIA and NJCAA football teams.

Albright sophomore Daniel Sobolewski has made 7-of-12 field goals (including a 51-yarder), and has booted 12 touchbacks. Lycoming senior Zach Czap, a 2011 BSN All-American, has made 3-of-5 field goal attempts in 2013.


In a crazy first minute of the fourth quarter, Albright erased a 14-point deficit in 14 seconds and went on to win the 2012 ECAC South-East Bowl, 38-34 over Franklin & Marshall.

After F&M punched it in for a 28-14 lead on the opening play of the fourth quarter, junior Daniel McNair took the ensuing kickoff back 88 yards for the touchdown. The Diplomats then fumbled Albright's kickoff on their own four-yard line, where it was recovered by Sean Cunningham on the one. Ty Hughes carried it in on the next play, giving the Lions two touchdowns in 14 seconds (and a combined three touchdowns for the two squads in a 28-second span).

The action was far from over, as F&M's Paul McGann got behind the Lion defense on the next play from scrimmage but was stripped. Cunningham came up with the ball for his second fumble recovery in a span of 18 seconds. Albright quarterback TJ Luddy completed a tough third down pass to Caleb Shilko to the four-yard line, and then snuck it in with 8:33 left to put the Lions ahead 35-28.


Albright fifth-year senior JT Harding has been selected as a national semifinalist for the National Football Foundation Campbell Trophy, the most pretigious Scholar-Athlete award in college football. Selected as the best and brightest from the college gridiron, The National Football Foundation (NFF) announced this week the 170 semifinalists for the 2013 William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation.

This is actually the second straight year Harding was selected as a national semifinalist. By the time he was chosen in 2012, he had already taken a medical redshirt following a serious injury in the Lions' second game of the season. Albright then withdrew him from consideration, since candidates must be in their final year of eligibility.

This summer, Harding was also the only NCAA football player named to the Inaugural NCSA Athleader All-American team. A business and marketing major, Harding has maintained a 3.75 GPA at Albright. He was also named to the Dean's List five times and had a perfect 4.0 GPA in the spring 2012 and spring 2013 semesters. He is a two-time team captain, starts on the defensive line, and is considered one of the top Division III long snappers in the nation.


Lycoming currently shares first place in the MAC, joining Widener, Delaware Valley and Lebanon Valley with one loss each. Albright and King's are next at 3-2 in conference, and the Lions can throw themselves back in the championship race with this crucial two-game stretch against Lycoming and Widener.