BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Routine and a focus on the present can sometimes cause us to lose sight of the big picture. But when one takes a step back and pauses for a moment of reflection, it gives us a greater appreciation for what the Lebanon Valley College football program has been able to accomplish over the past five years.
For we are living in an age of unprecedented and historic success for football at LVC.
On Saturday afternoon at Arnold Field, this modern era got a little more successful, as the Flying Dutchmen scored a – dare we say ‘routine’ – 65-21 win over FDU-Florham. Excelling in all three phases of the game – offensively, defensively and on special teams – Lebanon Valley blew out to a 37-0 lead and never let up.
The triumph pushed LVC’s overall mark to 3-1 and its Middle Atlantic Conference record to 2-1. FDU-Florham fell to 1-2 on the campaign and 0-2 in the MAC.
Over the last five seasons, the Flying Dutchmen have compiled an overall record of 32-15, a winning percentage of .688. Those numbers are in stark contrast to the all-time record of 415-555-37 that Lebanon Valley has amassed in 116 years of playing the sport.
As recently as 2003, the Flying Dutchmen went 1-9.
“I don’t know where they (the Devils) are as a football team,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos, whose career mark during 21 years at the helm stands at 96-108-2. “But once we got up three or four scores, they weren’t the same. I think they felt like they couldn’t stop us, and that they felt like they couldn’t move the ball against us.
“I know people are going to say, ‘Did you know this was going to happen?’, added Monos. “Let me answer that question, ‘No’. But we had to take the next step to be a contender in the league.”
Much to Monos’ delight, Lebanon Valley scored eight of its nine touchdowns on rushing attempts. Backs Austin Hartman and Brendan Irving each tallied four scores on the ground and surpassed the century-mark in rushing yardage.
Courtesy of a Josh Borreli interception, the Flying Dutchmen scored on their second possession of the game, as Hartman rumbled in from eight yards out. With 2:19 remaining in the opening period, Hartman made it 14-0 with a short TD burst.
And 1:51 into the second stanza, Hartman collected his third touchdown of the contest, this one a one-yard plunge that upped LVC’s margin to 21-0.
“It was better today,” said Monos of his club’s rushing attack. “I was happy about it. It seems like feast or famine for us sometimes. I’d like to find that happy medium. But we stayed on track.
“We felt like we lacked emotion on offense,” Monos continued. “We felt like we needed to establish the line of scrimmage. We generated some great team momentum, but now we have take that on the road (to Wilkes next week).”
Lebanon Valley out gained FD-Florham 503 total yards to 326. The Flying Dutchmen churned out 283 yards on the ground, and did not turn the ball over.
“It is a point of emphasis,” said Monos of improving the running game. “Last week I said we’ve been using the pass to set up the run. I felt like Hartman showed last week that he was coming. Today he stepped up pretty good, and so did our offensive line. When we went no-huddle, they (the Devils) weren’t able to handle that. But remember we’re still a running-by-committee team. We’ve got three of them (Hartman, Irving and Matt Richmond). Each week it’s a good progression.
“It (the win) puts us in position where we’re in second place,” continued Monos. “We still control our own destiny. We’re going to enjoy this one.”
It was a special teams play early in the second quarter which provided the Flying Dutchmen with a little separation from the Devils. Kevin Antol’s block of an FDU-Florham punt resulted in a safety.
Then Richmond’s 51-yard return of the ensuing free kick set up Irving for a ten-yard scamper to pay dirt. The result was nine points in 53 seconds and a 30-0 LVC lead.
“Our special teams were making some plays,” said Monos. “When you make big plays on special teams, it’s a big momentum booster. And we’ve got a weapon with (place kicker Sean) Fakete.
“Yes, I feel like we’ve taken another step, but time will tell,” Monos added. “I know you guys have heard this before, but we’ve got to try to take it one game at a time. But that’s where we are. We’ve got to beat Wilkes next week.”
Hartman’s 35-yard touchdown jaunt 5:04 before halftime capped a ten-play, 84-yard Lebanon Valley march and made it 37-0. The Flying Dutchmen led 44-14 at halftime, thanks to a 26-yard scoring scamper from Irving.
Fakete established a new LVC single-game record for points-after-touchdowns with eight. The Flying Dutchmen’s point output was its highest in 89 years.
“The third quarter took forever,” said Monos. “But in the fourth quarter, when we ran the football, we took time off the clock. When you’re able to run the football you’re headed in the right direction.
“We had some decisions to make with our top players,” Monos concluded. “We’ve got to keep them healthy. When you make substitutions, you don’t go wholesale. You do it piece meal. When you rotate guys like that, it’s not a drastic change. But we tell our younger guys, ‘This is your chance. Show us something.'”