Ship Sails Past Lock Haven
By BILL ALBRIGHT
EasternPAFootball/WesternPAFootball Senior Writer
LOCK HAVEN — As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Saturday’s PSAC-East football matchup between Shippensburg and Lock Haven, the scoreboard numbers had the final at Shippensburg 38, LHU 16.
However, if you take a closer look at how the game unfolded, the game was much closer for most of the 60 minutes than those numbers would indicate.
After showing leads of 7-0, 10-3 and 16-10 at halftime, the Bald Eagles fell on hard times in the second half as the Red Raiders scored 28 unanswered points en route to the 38-16 victory at rain-drenched Hubert Jack Stadium.
“The game got away from us because we turned the ball over,” said LHU head coach Dave Taynor. “Any way you look at it, we turned the ball over too much. You have to hang on to the ball and that is as simple as it gets. We played team number five today and that is all we are allowed to talk about as far as who they are. Although we turned the ball over, we moved the ball up and down the field at will. We played a lot better defense than we have been playing because we played more multiple looks to put our guys in position to have some success.”
Going into the game, Taynor was hoping that his squad could come up with a quick start rather than falling behind as they did in the previous games and they did just that.
The Bald Eagles scored on their first possession when they took the opening kickoff and promptly marched 60 yards on seven plays, quarterback Caleb Walton hitting Del’Vaughn Dennis with a 26-yard pitch-and-catch play for the touchdown.
After the two teams traded field goals, the Red Raiders tied the game at 10-all on a 9-yard run by quarterback Ryan Zapoticky, but LHU came right back to take a 16-10 lead into the locker room at halftime when Walton found Shawn Seif open on the left sideline, and Seif took the ball to the house to complete the 73-yard scoring play.
But then it happened as Freddy Fumble and Ivan Interception became Terry Turnover no less than four times that resulted in four Ship touchdowns.
“We came out to begin the second half with a lead, but with the feeling of how do we hang on to this instead of using the same approach we did in the first half that got us a lead,” said Taynor. “We started playing not to lose rather than playing to win and you can’t win trying not to lose against team five. You have to be able to finish drives.”
Not only do you have to finish drives, you can’t do that unless you maintain possession of the football.
“I just talked to them (the LHU team) that the number one most important thing in football is possession of the ball,” said Taynor. “If you possess the ball on offense, you can score. If you possess the ball from the defense, you can score so you have to hang on to the football. The number one most important part of football is the ball because no points can be scored without it. Even a safety is scored with the other team possessing the football before being tackled in the end zone. Every field goal and extra point is about the ball. If you drop a pick that would have stopped their scoring drive, we have to pick those balls off. Right now I think we are up to six or seven dropped interceptions on the year. You have to value the football.”
Once again Walton had a good statistical day throwing the ball, the redshirt senior completing 31 of 53 attempts for 457 yards and a pair of scores. Walton was also intercepted twice in the loss.
As for Walton‘s primary targets, Seif and Dennis led the way, Seif catching nine balls for 178 yards and the one score, while Dennis hauled in eight Walton passes for 117 yards and his one TD.
“Coach Taynor prepared us well as he always does,” said Dennis about finding openings across the middle. “He tells us to look for the situation when the linebackers spread out because that leaves the middle open. That is how we do our thing we call the option routes. I have a big body and that is how they use me in the patterns.”
Not exactly a finesse guy, Dennis uses his big body to run over defensive backs when they try to bring him down.
“That (running over someone) is always my goal man,” said Dennis with a smile on his face. “I learned that from Marshawn Lynch who said if you run over someone time after time, they aren’t going to want to step in front of you. Once I catch the ball, I try to get north man. I just try to get north.”
Not only did Dennis make a number of crucial catches in the game, one of his might have been a part of a circus act as he juggled the ball several times while being hit by Ship defenders before coming down with the ball.
“I saw the ball coming from Caleb and my job is to try and make him look good,” said Dennis. “If I only have one arm I have to up with the one arm and try to get the ball. I just kept focus and catch with your eyes.”
Dennis, along with Seif and Dan Krupko, might affectionately be called the “Three Amigos” of the LHU receiving corps. Unfortunately for Dennis and the Bald Eagles, Krupko had to be taken from the field on a stretcher following a big hit in the second half.
“Me, Krup and Seif, we have this little thing going between us,” said Dennis. “We feed off each other and seeing Danny go down, even though he is from Ohio, that is my brother. It affected me emotionally, but I knew that I had to stay on task to finish the game on a strong note. I just hate to see things like that happen and believe me when I say that I am going to say a lot of prayers for him.”
Leading the defensive unit that spent a lot of time on the field were Rahjeir Miles-Eubanks, Isaiah Flamer and Carmelo Cruz. Eubanks finished with 11 tackles, one for loss; Flamer matching Eubanks tackle total with 11 to go along with an interception and Cruz was credited with eight tackles, six solo shots.
Still looking for that elusive first win of the season at 0-5, the Bald Eagles will hopefully find that Saturday when they travel to Cheyney to battle the Wolves in another PSAC-East battle. Kickoff for that fray is set for 1 p.m.
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