BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Having each others’ backs. Providing physical and emotional support. Picking up slack when others aren’t necessarily performing to their capabilities.
It’s just the stuff that teammates do. The same can be said for groups of teammates within a squad, like offensive and defensive units.
On Saturday afternoon at Arnold Field, the Lebanon Valley College football team’s defense held its ground until a sluggish offense could gain its footing. It was that particular type of team work that produced the Flying Dutchmen’s 21-13 triumph over Wilkes.
Following a scoreless first half, the LVC offense scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the second half. But because of their defense, especially in the first half, the Flying Dutchmen never found themselves in the position of having to play from behind.
Lebanon Valley, which was coming off a bye week and an emotional overtime loss to Widener, improved to 4-2 on the year and 3-2 in the Middle Atlantic Conference. Wilkes, which had suffered an earlier 90-0 loss to Widener, fell to 3-3 on the campaign and 2-3 in the MAC.
Despite the fact that the Flying Dutchmen have claimed four of the last six meetings, the Colonels still lead the all-time series 23-18.
“There’s no question, it’s nice to win,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos. “Our offensive performance in the first half was disappointing. But our defense kept us in it, and we won as a team.
“In the first half, our defense kept us in the game,” continued Monos. “Offensively, now (in the second half) we’re scoring, but they’re (the Colonels) coming right back. As a coach, you’re figuring you’ve got to keep scoring. But it’s nice to finish the game with the ball in your hands.”
With three touchdown bursts, LVC fullback Evan Fink, the MAC’s leading scorer, capped three long and sustained Flying Dutchmen possessions in the second half. His first came on the heels of a seven-play, 75-yard march that gave LVC a 7-0 lead, with 6:58 left in the third quarter.
Fink made it 14-0, 4:47 later when he ran in a 14-yarder to culminate a seven-play, 77-yard drive. And then after Wilkes had finally dented the LVC defense, Lebanon Valley drove 77 yards in 11 snaps for a Fink burst that made it 21-7, four minutes into the final stanza.
Fink now has 11 touchdowns on the year.
“I can’t tell you what I really said at halftime,” said Monos. “But I told them (his players), ‘Look me in the eye and tell me that that was your best effort.’ And I also said that the defense has got to keep playing until the offense gets on track. It was a much better performance in the second half.
After the Flying Dutchmen offense punched in, it was the defense that ultimately sealed the deal.
With time running down and LVC clinging to its eight-point lead, the Colonels drove 66 yards to the Flying Dutchmen 11. But with 1:30 to play, the Lebanon Valley defense rose up once again and stopped Wilkes on downs.
“I can’t say we had a letdown because it wasn’t the entire team,” said Monos. “Gosh, we (the defense) were on the field a lot in the first half. Offensively, we weren’t getting first downs. But you’ve got to give them (the Colonels) credit. They came to play.
“Our defense played a heck of a first half,” added Monos. “And we played with emotion. Offensively we got going in the second half, and we made plays.”
Lebanon Valley’s offense mustered only 51 total yards and three first downs in the first half. For its part, the defense benefited from two missed field goal attempts by Wilkes.
“They did drive it down there, but they got no points,” said Monos. “That’s (close games) the history of this game (with Wilkes). (Head coach, Sheptock) Frank does a great job of getting his team ready. They had the same record as us coming in. But we’re 1-0 in the second half of the season.”
Linebacker Joey Scerbo paced the Flying Dutchmen defense with 13 tackles, while teammate Kevin Smith recorded nine tackles. Bryan Kasper, Dachonn Johnson and David Kennedy were all in on a lot of the defensive action for Lebanon Valley.
Pete Panichi led the LVC rushing attack with 19 carries and 91 yards.
“The key to us is that we’ve got to run the football,” said Monos. “And we didn’t in the first half. That sets up our play-action passes.”
For a time on Saturday, the Flying Dutchmen’s disappointing losses to Lycoming and Widener seemed part of the distant past.
“Our goal from here on out is to win ’em all,” said Monos. “But one at a time. We’re good enough to do it. Just look at the way we played today. We played to win, and we won that game.