LHU Downs Cheyney on LH Community Day
By BILL ALBRIGHT
LOCK HAVEN — Seldom do you see a team win a football game when its methods of scoring are a touchdown, an extra point, a field goal and a safety.
However, Saturday night at Hubert Jack Stadium, that was the method of putting points on the scoreboard for the Lock Haven University football team as the Bald Eagles overcame a lot of mistakes to post a hard-fought 12-10 victory over Cheyney in a PSAC-East matchup.
The contest, like the weather, was anything but pretty. However, as they say in the world of sports, even an ugly win is much better than any type of loss and the Bald Eagles graciously accepted the victory to move to 2-1 on the season on 2013 Community Night at the stadium.
“Any kind of win is better than a loss and we certainly tried to give them the game,” said an exhausted, but relieved LHU head coach John Allen. “We just made too many mistakes and turnovers, but our defense really held in there and did it for us.”
Cheyney drew first blood on their second possession of the game when they marched 98 yards on just seven plays, Naham Purdie breaking off the right side of his offensive line and outracing the LHU secondary for 63 yards to paydirt.
Jewel Jones added the PAT and with six minutes left in the first period, it was Cheyney 7, LHU 0.
After the two teams traded punches for the next dozen minutes, the Bald Eagles evened the count at 7-all.
James Wilbern returned a Cheyney punt 22 yards to the Cheyney 27. On the second play of the possession, quarterback Dillon Mazzoni hit a wide open Jeremy Cornelius for a 26-yard TD pass and the only Bald Eagle touchdown of the game. Alex Boumerhi added the PAT and the two teams were deadlocked at 7-all at the first turn.
The Wolves went back on top early in the second quarter following a big run by Marcus Jones. However, although it bent, but didn’t break, the LHU defense stiffened and the Wolves had to settle for a 35-yard field goal three minutes into the second period.
“They (the LHU defensive unit) played hard all night,” said Allen. “Regardless of the mistakes, it was good to see the guys hang in there and finish it at the end.”
During the final nine minutes of the period, the two teams traded turnovers with no scoring and the Wolves took a 10-7 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Although the Bald Eagles made numerous mistakes in the first half, the frustrating thing was that when they got a break, they didn’t capitalize on it.
“The turnovers we had were due to bone-headed mistakes,” Allen said. “Not making a good throw or not making the appropriate read to take advantage of what the defense gives us hurt us. They (Cheyney) did a good job capitalizing on our mistakes. They really did.”
One glaring statistic at the break was in third-down conversions where the Bald Eagles failed to convert on six tries. For the game, LHU only converted on two of a dozen third-down attempts, a situation that didn’t sit well with Allen.
“That has been a problem for us all year long,” he said. “We just have to get better at converting on those situations. It is just execution, it really is. We have to continue to take a hard look at it, but we just have to get better in that area. For some reason we are out of sync.”
The Bald Eagles were able to take advantage of a break following a Scott Benkovic recovery of a Cheyney fumble at the Wolves 40.
The drive stalled and that is when LHU’s Boumerhi drilled a career-best 46-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-all six minutes into the third period.
On Cheyney’s next possession, the roof caved in on the Wolves as the LHU defense forced a punt. The snap from center went over the punter’s head into the end zone where the Cheyney punter jumped on the ball for a LHU safety and a 12-10 lead.
The Eagles had an opportunity to run out the clock in the final minutes with Cheyney out of time outs, but one of those poor choices that Allen referred to gave the Wolves one last desparation chance to pull out a win.
“The bottom line is our defense really stood up to keep them out of the end zone,” said Allen. “They gave up the one touchdown on an explosive play, but other than that, they really did a good job.”
Leading the defense that Allen referred to were Matt Kirchner, Tony Ballon and George Christas. Kirchner and Ballon each made 11 tackles, while Christas added seven solo stops. As a team, LHU recorded two sacks, seven TFLs, one forced fumble and three interceptions. The three “picks” came from three different players.
Needing to hang on to the football, LHU chose to put it in the capable and dependable hands of Brandon Brader and he picked up 12 yards on two carries to keep the ball out of the hands of the Wolves.
With rushing yards at a premium, Brader led the way with 56 yards on 17 carries. The 56 yards gives him 2,070 for his career, good enough for fifth place on Lock Haven’s all-time career rushing list. He is now just 20 yards away from the fourth spot.
“We were on top and it was pretty much my job to hang on to the football,” explained Brader. “We wanted to pick up a first down, but more or less, we just wanted to run the clock down.”
Having been through a lot of rough times in his LHU career, Brader admitted that it feels real good to have won two of the first three games of the season.
“It feels wonderful,” Brader said. “As you can see by the score tonight we have a lot of work to do. A lot of mistakes were made and those mistakes are pretty much what is hurting us. We have a lot of talent on this team and we have a great family atmosphere so when we fix the mistakes, we’ll be all right.”
Now 2-1, the Bald Eagles will hit the road for their next outing when they travel down I-80 to Bloomsburg to face the Huskies. Kickoff for that game is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Robert Redman Stadium.
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