October 23, 2014

Editorial - Can No. 13 Widener Survive the Gauntlet?

2012 Widener Vs. Lycoming (Image: John Green)
The Gauntlet
Marvin's Pond, PA - Gauntlet you say! What are you talking about? Well Wikipedia describes a gauntlet as follows: Running the gauntlet or gantlet is a form of physical punishment where a captive is to run between two rows - a gauntlet - of soldiers who repeatedly strike them.

Ok, Widener is not a captive and to the contrary, each team they have played so far has been captured. But bear with me here. No. 13 Widener has won their first six games of the 2014 season and now faces the meat, the heart of their schedule. Unlike Lycoming College, who has already faced Stevenson, DelVal, and Kings, Widener must face teams in their last four weeks of play who have a total record to date of 18-6. To put it another way, Widener faces the top four teams in the MAC to end their season. To date, Widener has only played the bottom tier of MAC Teams so far this season.

Yes, it is not their fault that the schedule was set up this way, but can you believe that Widener has to face in the next four weeks Lycoming College with a strong offense and thought to have a strong defense, then Stevenson who is an up and coming contender in this conference. Continuing, watch out for Kings, who is on a three game winning streak that could reach to four by next week and finally, the DelVal classic matchup in the last game of the regular season. Imagine that game especially if both teams are undefeated.

Talk about a gauntlet, talk about being physically punished. This is a challenge for any teaam in my opinion. Will they have the energy to go undefeated with this remaining schedule? From my first observation watching them play Wilkes, the Pride surely has the depth to sustain the that many blows.  Only time will tell.

Lycoming College Must Game
From the Lycoming College Warriors standpoint, Saturday's game against Widener at 1:30pm on homecoming weekend is a do or die for them to win the MAC and secure a playoff birth. This is their last top tier team on their schedule, they have been through their hardest games on paper. They have something to prove Saturday, so why not prove it against a No. 13 team in the nation. Can you feel the excitement, the buildup, the pressure of this game.

In talking to Lycoming head coach Wednesday, he said, "I think they (Widener) are a very good team and ranked where they should be." He went on to say after talking to he defensive coaches, "They are as good or maybe even better than Delaware Valley." Mike continued to explain, "Both teams have very good quarterbacks, both have very good wideouts and Widener is a little more diverse at the tailback position. You know Widener has a couple of tight ends who are very good players." It is hard to believe that Widener's quarterback, Seth Klein has not thrown an interception all year. He is a remarkable player and a strong leader for the Pride.

Defensively, Mike believes that Widener's defensive line is the be in the conference. "They are big and physical at tackle, they are athletic at end. They put people at second and long, third and long regularly and there is a reason they are undefeated. They won at Rowan, this will be the best team we will have played to date, Mike explained.

Offensively, Mike believes that Widener plays smart because they do spread the ball around to so many people which in turn spreads out the opponent's defense. Spreading out the ball to many players is not a bad thing. Mike joked that, "Paton Manning doesn't care who he throws the ball to, and he has thrown 510 touchdowns to a bunch of different people."

Asked whether it is a good spot to go into a game like this as the underdog, Mike grinned at me and said boldly, "I would rather be undefeated!" Lycoming has a history of knocking off ranked teams and are hoping to add to that legacy. They have knocked six teams from the national rankings in Mike's seven years as head coach. In his first year at the helm in 2008, the Warriors downed No. 22 Delaware Valley, 10-7, knocking the Aggies from the national polls. In 2010, the team did it again, shocking No. 13 Ithaca, 26-24. In 2011, the Warriors picked off their third ranked opponent in Clark's tenure, knocking No. 22 Rowan from the polls with an 8-6 win. The Warriors knocked No. 22 Delaware Valley from the rankings again in 2012, beating the Aggies, 24-14. In 2013, the Warriors did it twice, beating 24th-ranked Widener, 16-14, and 16th-ranked Delaware Valley, 19-16.

So Saturday, we should be in for another classic Widener Vs. Lycoming matchup that has become famous in the Middle Atlantic Conference. This game means so much for each team, and much more for the Lycoming Warriors. It comes down to putting on the line all that preseason work, all that sweat and grind, many grueling practices and bringing it to the one big game of your season and maybe your football career. It should be a dandy of  a game.

They tee it up Saturday, October 25th at 1:30pm at David Person Field, Williamsport, PA. Hope to see you there.