East Stroudsburg Slips Past Lock Haven in PSAC-East Battle
By BILL ALBRIGHT
EasternPAFootball.com/WesternPAFootball.net Senior Writer
LOCK HAVEN — For the Lock Haven University football team, it was a case of being so close to, but still so far from realizing its first victory of the season.
Hosting East Stroudsburg in a PSAC-East matchup, the Bald Eagles battled hard for sixty minutes, only to see their efforts slip through their fingers that resulted in a frustrating 37-34 loss to the Warriors Saturday afternoon at Hubert Jack Stadium.
“In my opinion we finally took and carried over what we have been doing in practice into playing the game,” said LHU head coach Dave Taynor. “I told them after the game there is no such thing as a moral victory. But what we did was play at about 75 percent of our best efficiency in the game. If we can just find a way to get a little better in each practice and in game situations, that will put us in a situation where we can win tight games in the fourth quarter.”
During the first half, points were in abundance as the two teams combined for 51 points with LHU holding a 28-23 halftime advantage. During that time span, LHU scored the first touchdown of the game for a 7-0 lead before ESU came back to tally 23 unanswered points for a 23-7 lead.
LHU’s first score of the game was a 22-yard TD connection from quarterback Caleb Walton to Jeremy Cornelius.
Taking advantage of an opportunistic offense, the Bald Eagles put on a final surge that resulted in 21 unanswered points during the final 3:51 of the second quarter for its 28-23 halftime lead.
Walton hit Shaun Jones with a 4-yard scoring pass, Walton ran one in from 14 yards out and the redshirt junior signal caller tossed his third of four TD passes in the game of 14 yards to David Cook.
Just as high-powered were the two offenses in the first half, it was time for the defensive units of both teams to stand tall in a scoreless third period.
With the Bald Eagles still hanging on to its 28-23 lead, East Stroudsburg recaptured the lead (29-28) on a 5-yard TD pass from quarterback Matt Soltes to Gerard Wendowski less than a minute into the final period.
Answering the call, the Bald Eagles again put its offense in high gear as they manufactured an 8-play, 76-yard march, capped by a 38-yard pass and run effort from Walton to Shawn Seif with 8:32 left to put LHU up 34-29.
With eight minutes left on the clock, the Bald Eagle defensive unit stiffened to force an ESU punt to the LHU 10.
On the strength of Walton’s right arm and the legs of Swales, the Bald Eagles moved right down the field and threatened to all but put the game on ice, but a 30-yard LHU field goal attempt was blocked and the Warriors went on the warpath.
Down by five, ESU offense methodically moved the ball downfield until the combination of Soltes to Wendowski again clicked for the score, this time from nine yards out.
Trailing by three points and only 1:25 left on the clock, the Bald Eagles gave it one final shot to pull the game out of the fire, but a 44-yard field goal effort was wide left and the Warriors escaped with the hard-fought win.
“The loss hurts because it was a tight, tough game and those are the games you always want to win,“ said Taynor. “As a coach you many times are asked would you rather have a big win or win it in the fourth quarter. Had we won this game in the fourth quarter, it would have felt a lot better than had we run away with the game. We’ll learn from facing this situation with the two field goal opportunities late in the game. We had a little bit of a hold problem with the first one and we just pulled the second one to the left. We make those two things, we win the game. We were right there and I was very proud of the way they let themselves come out here today and just play the game.”
As the workhorse for the LHU offense, Swales finished with 193 yards on 27 tries, his total the eleventh-best, single-game rushing effort in LHU football history.
“We were playing against that 3-3 stack and it is one of the easiest defenses to block and run against,” Swales explained. “When I cut to the right, then made the cutback to the left, the backer was playing over the top.”
After having a lot of success in the first half, Swales pointed out that the cutbacks that broke him loose for some of his big runs in the first half were no longer there.
“I noticed in the second half that the cutback wasn’t there at all,” he said. “They kept the backer on the back side so on the first couple of drives, I didn’t know where to hit it. It opened up a little bit near the end of the third and in the fourth quarter.”
When Swales wasn’t running with the ball, Walton was busy filling the airways as he completed 20 of 38 attempts good for 234 yards and four touchdowns. Walton’s TD tosses went to four different receivers.
For Walton, the four touchdown passes matches his career best and gives him a career total of 32, third best in LHU career statistics.
“The difference today was that we finally played (the game) like we practice,” Walton said. “Coach (Taynor) really prepares us well and we just need to play hard and have trust in our preparation. We finally saw what coach Taynor has built this offense to do and because we couldn’t come up with the win, it is bittersweet.”
On the final drive, Walton said it might have been partially due to having some missing pieces in the lineup due to injuries.
“Injuries happen and the next guy in line has to step up,” Walton said. “We had a third-and-ten and we liked our matchup against their defense. Their guy just made a play. You always hope that our player is the one who makes the play but today, it wasn’t to be.”
Now 0-4, the Bald Eagles are right back in action at Jack Stadium Saturday when they host the West Chester Golden Rams in another PSAC-East fracas. Kickoff for that fray is set for High Noon.
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