Thursday, August 31, 2017

PREVIEW - Lebanon Valley Football Hosts F&M For 2017 Opener

Image courtesy of Lebanon Valley Sports Information
Going to the Game
(Directions) Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $2 for non-LVC students. LVC students receive free admission.

Five Things
Lebanon Valley is coming off a 4-6 season during which the Flying Dutchmen finished the year with three consecutive victories.

Seniors Tom Gallagher, Tommy Garner, Spencer Moser, and Tyler Sterner, as well as junior Ryan Fink will serve as team captains this fall.

The Dutchmen return 23 total starters from a year ago, including 10 on the defensive side of the ball.
The F&M rivalry is one of the oldest in LVC football history, with the first contest between the two schools taking place in 1899.

At 24 miles away, F&M is LVC's closest geographical rival in Division III football.

Series History
This is the 37th meeting after the mid-state rivals met in 2014 for the first time since 1982. F&M leads the series 27-8-1. The last time the Dutchmen beat the Diplomats came in 1981 when LVC claimed a 30-20 victory, while LVC's first victory in the series came in 1923 when the Dutchmen defeated the Dips 7-6. At 24 miles, F&M is geographically LVC's closest rival in NCAA Division III football, compared to 36 miles for Albright and 44 miles to Dickinson. It is one of the oldest rivalries in LVC football, dating back to the first meeting in 1899, a 28-0 Diplomat win in Lancaster.

Last Year
Franklin & Marshall held Lebanon Valley to just 205 yards of total offense in the team's 30-6 loss at Sponaugle-Williamson Field in last year's season opener. The Diplomats got on the board first when running back Taalib Gerald capped a 10-play, 52-yard opening drive with a touchdown run from one yard out at the 7:55 mark of the first quarter. LVC's offense broke through early in the second quarter when quarterback Tim Pirrone rolled out to the right, tucked the ball, and dove across the goal line to score the team's first points. The junior's TD scamper capped a 6-play, 69-yard drive keyed by Pirrone's 46-yard pass to tight end Dylan Berberick on the possession's first play. The Dutchmen defense clamped down heading into halftime, allowing nothing more than a field goal before the break. Trailing 9-6 late in the half, Adam Wagaman and Guy Zimmerman met quarterback Tanner Erisman in the backfield. The sack came as the second quarter expired, keeping the deficit a manageable three points. It was all F&M in the second half as Gerald's 40-yard run to open the third quarter led to another Diplomat touchdown. LVC returner Michael Gavaltwice gave his team great starting field position on kickoffs but the Dutchmen were unable to convert on either possession. The Dips turned an LVC fumble into points when Erisman hit wide receiver Bobby Keyes for a 29-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to increase the lead to 23-6. F&M put it out of reach on the team's next possession when Gerald broke a third-down run up the middle and scampered 28 yards to pay dirt to make it 30-6 with 11:54 left to play.

Finishing StrongAfter getting off to a 1-6 start last fall, Lebanon Valley ended the 2016 season in a big way by winning its final three contests. After dropping a slim 27-24 decision at Lycoming on Oct. 22, the Dutchmen responded with a 28-13 victory over Misericordia on Oct. 29 and followed it up with a 34-20 win at FDU-Florham on Nov. 5. Most impressively, LVC kept longtime rival Albright from winning at least a share of the MAC Championship by knocking off the Lions 28-25 in the season finale. The team's thrilling season-ending victory came on a blocked field goal as time expired and in keeping with tradition, earned LVC's student body an extra day off from classes on the day before Thanksgiving.

Team Captains
LVC will have four first-time team captains in 2017 in seniors Tommy Garner, Spencer Moser, and Tyler Sterner, as well as junior Ryan Fink. Senior Tom Gallagher will serve as captain for the second year in a row. The group was elected by their teammates after the 2016 campaign.

Aiding the Victims of Hurricane Harvey
In an effort to help aid those affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, Lebanon Valley College will hold a clothing drive during this weekend's season-opening football game. Those attending the game are encouraged to bring any extra articles of clothing, including outerwear, socks, shoes, and anything else that can be shipped, for donation to those most affected by Hurricane Harvey, particularly in Houston and the surrounding areas.

Key Dates
In addition to this weekend's season opener, there are a number of dates of note on Lebanon Valley's schedule this fall. The annual Pink Game takes place on Sept. 16 when King's comes to town, while LVC's Coach to Cure MD contest will be held the next weekend when the Dutchmen play host to FDU-Florham on Sept. 23. The team's matchup with Stevenson on Oct. 14 will serve as its 2017 Homecoming Game, while Senior Day ceremonies will take place prior to the home finale against Lycoming on Nov. 4. LVC caps the 2017 campaign on the road with the 97th meeting in the longtime rivalry against Albright on Nov. 11.

Meet the Dutchmen
Lebanon Valley has 130 student-athletes on its opening day football roster. Here they are in their own words…

2016 All-MAC Honors
The Dutchmen saw seven players earn MAC All-Conference honors a year ago; three of whom return this season. Fullback Evan Lysczek was a First-Team All-MAC selection, while tight end Dylan Berberick and inside linebacker Alex Trujillo earned all-conference honorable mention nods. Thanks to his success in the classroom, Lysczek was also named MAC Academic All-Conference.

Dutchmen Pegged Seventh
Lebanon Valley was picked to finish seventh in the 2017 MAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. Delaware Valley edged out the defending MAC Champs from Stevenson to earn the poll's top spot with 75 points and five first-place votes. The Mustangs received three first-place votes and totaled 72 points. Albright tied with SU for the runner-up position with 72 points and a pair of first-place votes, while Widener and King's rounded out the top five with 55 and 47 points, respectively.

Centennial-MAC Bowl Series Continues
There's a chance that Saturday's opener between LVC and F&M could be the first of two meetings this 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.

Noting LVC's Offense
After solidifying the starting quarterback job during the final four contests of 2016, Tyler Sterner will command the offense again this fall. Ryan Fink, Paxson Hayes, and Jon Jones will provide the rushing attack, while Tyler Cottle, Tim Pirrone, Colt Baxter, Jeremy De La Cruz, and Gary Wise should provide Sterner with plenty of targets at wide receiver. LVC replaces three offensive linemen from last season but returning starters Logan Stover and Scott Werner will solidify the guard spots. Bob Van Horn and Lee Amarose take over at the tackle positions and Scotty Dickmyer will start at center for the first time. The group will get a boost from another returning starter in Dylan Berberick at tight end.

Noting LVC's Defense

Nearly the entire starting defense is back for the 2017 campaign, led by a stout linebacker group consisting of Tom Gallagher, Tommy Garner, and Alex Trujillo. Also back are three of four starters in the secondary, including Spencer Moser and Nick Tucker at corner, and Blake Lutz at free safety. Zachary Adams joined Lutz in returning from a season-ending injury a year ago to hold down the strong safety spot. The defensive line is deep and a combination of Austin Maguire, Ryan Johnson, Trent Donlan, Guy Zimmerman, and Adam Wagaman should provide plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Noting LVC's Special Teams
Special teams should prove to be a strength of the LVC program in 2017, as nine key players from the unit are back to lead the group this fall. Tyler Hodges, a Team of the Week honoree and a MAC Special Teams Player of the Week a year ago, returns, as do two-year starters in punter Spencer Moser, a Second-Team All-Region pick in 2015, and kicker Marcus Brown, a two-time MAC Special Teams Player of the Week two years ago. Nick Bentz will also provide power in the kicking game, while the versatile Tim Pirrone and a now-healthy Jeremy De La Cruz will handle the kick return duties. Tim Schumacherand Zachary Adams will return punts, Tyler Cottle is the team's top holder, and Adam Wagaman will long snap on punts and field goals.

Scouting F&M
Franklin & Marshall is coming off a 7-4 season that included a 6-3 record in Centennial Conference play and a postseason appearance. The Diplomats earned a spot in the second annual Centennial-MAC Bowl series but fell to Albright 28-23 in the final minutes last November. F&M saw 12 of its players earn all-conference honors last fall and four of them are back in 2017. Defensive lineman Joe Granahan, an All-Centennial First-Team pick, will anchor the defensive front, while fellow all-conference first-teamer in defensive back Vincent Moffett will hold down the secondary. Michael Sullivan, a Second-Team All-Centennial selection, will join Granahan on the defensive line, combining to create one of the team's strongest units. Running back Taalib Gerald was an honorable mention nod and has had success in each of the past two matchups with LVC.

Who's Next?
LVC opens MAC play on the road at Wilkes on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 9.