The last time Lycoming football played at Misericordia was an exhibition game in 2020. The 31-7 victory for the Warriors was the only competition in a year missed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The two programs will meet again this Saturday for a regular season conference game at David Person Field to kick off at 1 p.m. This time around, the Cougars (2-2) have a slightly different look.
John Davis is now Misericordia’s new head coach, having replaced Mark Ross when the latter was hired at Bloomsburg over the summer. Davis is only the second head coach in program history and the Cougars are always adjusting to changes after the missed season.
“While there may be some familiarity with the staff, there are certainly different patterns”, Lycoming coach Mike Clark said in practice Wednesday. “The staff are basically the same, but you can see that (Ross) still has some influence over the things they do.
The Warriors (3-2) were able to move the chains on offense with play action week after week. If there was ever a matchup for that trend to be fully flaunted, it would now be against a Cougars defense that is allowing an average of 257.5 yards per game against her in the air.
“They put a lot of pressure and play a lot of man-to-man, so there will definitely be opportunities to throw the ball,” Clark said about Misericordia’s defense. “We always want to regain control of the ball better than we have in the past two weeks. I think that’s a big part of our ability to be successful. Hopefully these two things go hand in hand. “
Two weeks ago against Stevenson’s dominant defensive line, Lycoming ran for 112 yards on 37 attempts. Last Saturday against defending three-round MAC champion Delaware Valley, the Warriors were limited to 64 rushing yards on 32 carries.
Kyle Powell and Joey Guida turned the backfield for Lycoming. On the season, Guida has 181 rushing yards on 44 touches, Powell with 152 yards on 42 carries. The two juniors, however, were more involved in the passing game. The pass-catching running back tandem has room for high production this Saturday.
One area to watch will be ball safety. While the Warriors have been consistent in forcing turnovers, the Cougars have only dabbled twice and have recovered both times so far this season. Misericordia also threw just six interceptions.
The Cougars don’t tend to spit the ball a lot. Lycoming could make it happen.
“We’ve been good enough to turn people around, that’s a big part of that. Ultimately, the game is about possessions or the ball. You can’t score without it, “ Clark said. “One of our goals on offense is normally to end all practice with kicks. You don’t want to flip it, you prefer to kick, but defensively, if they have it, let’s go get it.
During the season, Misericordia is at 30% for the third down conversion, while the Warriors’ opponents convert for the third down 43.06% of the time.
Saturday marks the second week of a long farm for Lycoming. With a week off thereafter, the Warriors then welcome Albright and Wilkes before hitting the road again.
Lycoming has yet to lose a conference game outside of Williamsport. Now the Warriors are looking to defend the house.
“We just want to win this week, and I know it’s very cliché, but every time you lose you have to get things back on track” Clark said. “The week off will give us the opportunity to clean up a few things, but our goal this week is to win and get a 4-2 record. We haven’t been 4-2 mid-season for a long time.
LYCOMING PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tyjah Pendant, Tre ‘Leach, Kevin Krawczyk, Joey Guida and Kyle Powell.
The wide receiver body has favorable clashes all around with Pendant spearheading the roster as WR1. Leach and Krawczyk will also have room for plenty of targets against a lackluster Cougar pass defense.
The Warriors will try to establish their running game, but Guida and Powell can be a double threat on the ground and in the short pass.
MISERICORDIA PLAYERS TO WATCH: David Cromwell and Michael Gawlik.
What the Cougars lack in the passing game, they catch up on the ground. Cromwell leads the backfield with 394 rushing yards on 55 carries this year. Gawlik reinforces that with 285 rushing yards on 41 touches of his own this season. The two are averaging nearly seven yards per carry, so the duo will challenge the running defense that Lycoming is emphasizing each week.