Mercyhurst Holds off LHU for 23-10 win
By BILL ALBRIGHT
EasternPAFootball.com/WesternPAFootball.net Senior Writer
LOCK HAVEN — The inability to maintain drives that resulted in points on offense and the inability to get off the field on defense, especially on third downs, has hurt the Lock Haven University football team for much of the season.
In Saturday afternoon’s Senior Day game with Mercyhurst, it was much of the same as missed opportunities on offense coupled with allowing the big play on defense resulted in the Laker’s walking off the field with a 23-10 win over the Bald Eagles.
“We were going to try and control the game up front, but we didn’t take advantage of a couple of opportunities that we had to finish drives,” said LHU head coach Dave Taynor. “We missed a field goal and had a couple of other opportunities to keep the drive alive and we didn’t finish those.”
The Lakers took the initial lead in the game on a 28-yard field goal in the final minutes of the opening period, but the Bald Eagles bounced right back on a 5-yard scoring pass from quarterback Kyle Knight to John Ford to take a 7-3 lead. The short scoring drive of 30 yards was set up on a fumble recovery at the Hurst 30 by Rashawn Williams.
Lock Haven’s only lead of the afternoon was short-lived as on the first play following the Ford touchdown, one of those nasty big plays appeared on the scene when Hurst tailback Garrett Owens ripped off an 83-yard jaunt to the house for a touchdown. For the game, Owens out-rushed the entire LHU offense with 204 yards and the one touchdown. For LHU, quarterback Kyle Knight had another good day running the ball with 130 yards on 21 carries.
“They (Mercyhurst) want to be a physical, downhill football team and right now, that is the area where we are the most beat-up in,” said Taynor. “We tried to stop them in there and now that we didn’t, it is time to go and recruit.”
For the remainder of the first half, the LHU defense, with one exception stood tall until it allowed a Laker touchdown with a mere 22 seconds remaining before the break. The drive covered 63 yards and took only 1:46 to execute.
With the Mark Shafer PAT conversion, the Hurst lead had quickly jumped to 17-7 at halftime.
“Defensively I thought we did some good things, especially with the young guys we had in there,” said Taynor. “Due to injuries, we had guys playing ‘D’ line who were playing on offense at the beginning of the year. They battled and fought, but we have to be able to get off the field on third down and you can’t give up 83-yard touchdown runs.”
Stevie Pugh also had an interception to go along with a Lock Haven fumble recovery which helped headline a strong all-around defensive effort this afternoon. Alex Welch (Hughesville) finished with nine tackles and Isaiah Flamer recorded eight stops. Dontae Mason made seven tackles to round out the defensive unit’s solid outing.
Taking the second half kickoff, the Lakers put their final points on the board on a 22-yard pass from quarterback Doug Altavilla to Brad Novak that capped a 74-yard, 9-play drive.
During the final 24 minutes of the game, the Bald Eagles had a number of opportunities to get the offense moving to put some points on the board, but could only show a 34-yard field goal by Nick Boumerhi that set the final at Hurst 23, LHU 10.
Although the Bald Eagles could only show two wins in the 10 games, Taynor liked what he saw in terms of the development of some of the younger players.
“From the offensive standpoint, if you look at Kyle Knight at the start of the year to Kyle Knight at the end of the year he went from a player who I wasn’t sure if he was ready to play at all to a guy who was a pretty good player,” said Taynor. “We expected at the start of the year to redshirt Elliott Walker and he wound up being one of our most productive receivers at the end of the year. Marcus Williams is another guy who we were going to redshirt and he got himself out there and got a little taste of it last week when he scored a touchdown. Jalen Jackson didn’t have a super productive day today, but unless something wild happens, he will wind up being the most productive tight end in the conference for the year. We have a lot of good young guys and the future looks bright.”
Prior to the opening kickoff, the Bald Eagles honored their 16 graduating seniors. Recognized for their contributions to the Crimson & White program were Carlos Balkcom, Corey Blakey, Chris Bonk, Nick Boumerhi, Kevin Campbell, Brandon Clements, Marcus Disbrow, Trent Fielding, Austin Heinbaugh, David Lazo, Connor Marsico, Terrell Mitchell, Andres Medina-Munoz, Devante Oliver, Cole Renninger and Daniel Strawbridge.
“We have a whole mixture in this senior group,” said Taynor. “You have a guy like Cole Renninger who might have been a sophomore a couple of years ago, but he was playing basketball when we got here. We also have a couple of guys who joined us a little later in their careers like Trent Fielding who is a transfer offensive lineman. He spent his last two years here with us and was with me at another university.”
As for players who were with Taynor for most of their careers it would be the offensive linemen.
“We came in with an offensive line in 2015 that most people might have said was very poor,” recalled Taynor. “Although the results on the scoreboard didn’t change that much, right now they have become one of the more dominant offensive line groups in the conference. That is a testament to them for training hard over the summer as well as to Coach (Bill) Nickell who coaches the line and all the other coaches who coach people on the offensive side of the football.”
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