August 30, 2018

Game Preview - Lebanon Valley Football Opens at Franklin and Marshall

A MACfb File Photo by John Green
Series History
This is the 39th meeting after the mid-state rivals renewed the series in 2014 for the first time since 1982. F&M leads the series 29-8-1. The last time the Dutchmen beat the Diplomats came in 1981 when LVC claimed a 30-20 victory, while LVC's first victory in the series came in 1923 when the Dutchmen defeated the Dips 7-6. At 24 miles, F&M is geographically LVC's closest rival in NCAA Division III football, compared to 36 miles for Albright and 44 miles to Dickinson. It is one of the oldest rivalries in LVC football, dating back to the first meeting in 1899, a 28-0 F&M win in Lancaster.

Last Year
Lebanon Valley suffered a 48-7 loss to Franklin & Marshall at Arnold Field in the 2017 season opener. The Flying Dutchmen struggled to get anything going offensively, while the defense was overwhelmed by an efficient F&M offense that clicked on all cylinders behind the performance of quarterback Tanner Erisman. The QB accounted for five Diplomat touchdowns, including four through the air, and finished as the game's leading rusher with 55 yards and a score. The F&M defense set the tone right off the bat when Joe Granahan sacked LVC quarterback Tyler Sterner on the game's first play. After a three-and-out by the Dutchmen, the Dips marched scored the contest's first points when Erisman connected with wideout K.J. Pretty for a 23-yard touchdown at the 9:06 mark of the first quarter. It got worse for LVC when punter Spencer Moser tried to pick up a first down following a bobbled snap. He was cut down at his own 26-yard line and Erisman found receiver Dillon Alderfer for a TD on the very next play. F&M added three touchdowns in the second quarter before Sterner finally picked up Lebanon Valley's first first down with less than two minutes remaining in the half. The Dutchmen managed just 10 total yards of offense in the first half, while the visitors scored touchdowns on all five of their first-half possessions. The Diplomats added another score on their second possession of the third quarter and the back-breaker came when K.J. Boston picked off Sterner's lob at the F&M 10-yard line, weaved through traffic, and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown with six seconds remaining in the period. LVC opened the fourth quarter with its best drive of the afternoon; one that ended with receiver Adam Domovich hauling in a pass from quarterback Brett Cohen and just tapping his toes inbounds in the left side of the end zone. The 24-yard score capped an eight-play, 58-yard drive.

Team Captains
LVC will have four first-time team captains in 2018 in seniors Zachary AdamsTyler HodgesGary Wise, as well as junior Anthony Jenkins. Senior Ryan Fink will serve as captain for the second year in a row. The group was elected by their teammates after the 2017 campaign.

Previewing With Coach Buehler
Third-year head coach Joe Buehler '89 recently sat down for an interview that hit on a number of topics including his team's preseason progress, this season's schedule, and his thoughts heading into this weekend's opener at Franklin & Marshall.

Dutchmen Pegged Sixth
Lebanon Valley was picked to finish sixth in the MAC Football Preseason Coaches' Poll. LVC exceeded preseason expectations a year ago by finishing fifth in the MAC, despite being predicted to finish seventh in last fall's poll. Delaware Valley, the defending MAC champion, earned the poll's top spot with 98 points and eight first-place votes. Stevenson earned the runner-up spot, receiving two first-place votes and totaled 88 points. Widener was pegged third with 79 points and one first-place vote, while Albright and Lycoming rounded out the top five with 73 and 64 points, respectively. The Dutchmen received 59 points in just missing out on the top five.

Centennial-MAC Bowl Series Adds Third Game
Following a successful introduction in 2015, the MAC and Centennial Conference have announced the return of the Centennial-MAC Bowl Series for the fourth postseason in a row. The format of the Centennial-MAC Bowl Series has changed with the addition of a third game. The top seeds, second seeds, and third seeds will face each other unless the teams have already played that season. In that case, the commissioners from each conference will determine new pairings. The Centennial Conference will host the top-seed and third-seed games and the MAC will host the second-seed game in odd years, and vice versa in even years. This season, the bowl games are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17. The MAC will host the No. 1 seed and No. 3 seed games, while the Centennial Conference will host the No. 2 seed game this year.

LVC's Offense
The offense has a tough task ahead in replacing seven of the unit's starters from 2017, including quarterback, fullback, both wide receivers, tight end, and a pair of offensive lineman. New under center this year is talented sophomore Kody Kegarise. The former Maxwell Football Club Pennsylvania High School Player of the Year and PIAA 5A First-Teamer will alleviate some of the pressure by handing the ball off to a veteran running back in senior Ryan FinkHunter Wilson and Steve Salerno will add to the depth at tailback, Derrec Robinson and C.J. Steinhilber take over at fullback, and Gary WiseTyeair DiggsDallas Arner, and Adam Domovich, along with tight end Patrick Clark, should provide a combination of athleticism and sure-handedness at the pass catcher positions. Tackle Lee Amarose and guard Scott Wernerstarted every game a year ago and their experience should go a long way in solidifying the offensive line.

LVC's Defense
Heading into 2018, the defense will replace six starters from last year's campaign. That said, the defensive line is plenty experienced, with seniors including Austin MaguireRyan Johnson, and Jake Whitfield leading the way for a deep group that also includes Adam WagamanTrent Donlan, and Wyett McLeod. Former All-MAC Honorable Mention pick Alex Trujillo is back at linebacker, as is Tyler Lutz after a strong freshman campaign last fall. Fellow linebacker Tyler Hodges will shed his role as special teams ace and move into the starting lineup, while talented freshman Brandon Brubaker could also find time at LB right away. Veteran safeties in senior Zachary Adams and junior Anthony Jenkins will quarterback the defense, while the physically-gifted Tyler Okomba and Jake Cromer should get the first crack at the cornerback positions.

LVC's Special Teams
Continuity remains key for the team's punt units, as Adam Domovich will reprise his role as top punter after a breakout junior campaign last fall. When fielding punts, the trio of Tyeair DiggsJared Kramp, and Zachary Adams will shoulder the responsibility. Junior Nick Bentz has shown off his big leg during kickoff duties the past two seasons but he'll have the chance to make his mark when he takes over the placekicker duties this season. Diggs proved one of the MAC's top kick returners a year ago and he'll look to build upon his impressive sophomore season in 2018.

Scouting F&M
Franklin & Marshall is coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history. The Diplomats put together a 10-win campaign in 2017, including a season-ending victory over Widener in the Centennial-MAC Bowl Series, and saw a program-record 15 players earn All-Centennial Conference recognition. F&M is ranked No. 17 by Street & Smith's and No. 24 by heading into the season. Senior defensive end and reigning Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Year Joe Granahan racked up a pair of early accolades as well, as he was named a Preseason All-American by both and Street & Smith's. Since LVC and F&M renewed their rivalry in 2014, the Dips have won all four contests. Franklin & Marshall eked out one-score victories in 2014 and 2015, respectively, before winning by wide margins in each of the past two season openers.

Who's Next?
LVC hosts Wilkes for the team's 2018 home opener on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 8.

Stay Connected
Be sure to follow @lvcathletics on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook for the most in-depth coverage of LVC athletics.

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