ANNVILLE – Its rival on Senior Day, with a postseason berth on the line.
The Lebanon Valley College football team entered Saturday afternoon’s regular-season finale with a lot at stake. The Flying Dutchmen exited it with one clear message, ‘There’s a lot of work still left to do.’
At Arnold Field, Lebanon Valley unsuccessfully concluded a successful season with a 26-14 loss to Albright. Despite a sluggish offensive performance, the Flying Dutchmen only trailed by six points midway though the fourth quarter, until the Lions posted 13 unanswered points to open a 26-7 advantage.
With the setback, Lebanon Valley ended 2012 6-4 overall, and 5-4 and fifth in the Middle Atlantic Conference. But it was the Flying Dutchmen’s fifth straight winning season.
A win would’ve assured LVC of its fourth consecutive ECAC postseason bowl game. And while there remains a chance that Lebanon Valley could still play an eleventh game, it is a slim one.
Albright improved to 7-3 on the year and 6-3 in the conference. The meeting was the 92nd all-time in a series that the Lions now lead 57-32-3.
“All of those were important,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos. “If the seniors win they’re the winningest class in school history. There are different ways to win games. But our offense really struggled today.
“I’m really disappointed for this football team,” Monos continued. “I believe they wanted to play another football game. And I wanted to coach these guys one more game. I told their (the Lions’) coach after the game they’ve got a good football team.”
Already up 3-0, Albright was looking for more, after having driven 54 yards deep into LVC territory. But Flying Dutchmen cornerback Josh Borreli stepped in front of an errant Lion aerial and returned it an even hundred yards down the left sidelines to put Lebanon Valley ahead 7-3.
But while the defense kept the Flying Dutchmen in it most of the day, the offense faltered. Unable to establish a presence on the ground or protect its quarterback, LVC netted just 47 yards rushing and totaled 236 yards.
“That was his third interception return for a touchdown this season,” said Monos of Borreli. “Our coaching staff does a good job of getting him ready to play. Two plays earlier he missed a tackle. Then on the next play, he made a play.
“I told the coaches at halftime, 10-7 I was happy, based on how things went in the first half,” added Monos. “But we needed to be the first to score in the second half. I thought we asked too much of our defense. They were on the field too much.”
Two Marty Reinhardt one-yard touchdowns 37 seconds apart late in the fourth quarter pretty much settled the issue in Albright’s favor. Reinhardt’s second score was set up by a Flying Dutchmen fumble and Zac Groff’s 29-yard rumble.
Albright enjoyed a 19-point cushion with 5:15 to go.
“The offense being unable to move the football was a disappointment,” said Monos. “There’s no excuses. We’ve got to play with what we’ve got. But we lost two linemen up front.
“Leo’s (quarterback, Kyte) a pocket guy,” continued Monos. “It’s hard to get him on the edge. That’s why we went to (sophomore Brian) Murphy. But they (the Lions) were really coming down hill against us on the run.”
The Lebanon Valley offense and running back Pete Panichi finally got on the board with 45 seconds remaining, as the latter punched it in from a yard out. The touchdown burst capped a 15-play, 75-yard, too-little-too-late Flying Dutchmen possession.
“We fought to the end,” said Monos. “I said to the guys, ‘Do you just want to walk away or do you want to fight.’ That’s the message we wanted to send to our underclassmen.
“Hopefully there will be guys who step in for our seniors,” Monos added. “We’ve had winning seasons the last four years those guys have been here, which is something we’re proud of. Now let’s get ready for the future. We’ve got to figure out who’s in and who’s not.
“There’s some guys there. We have a nice nucleus coming back. I’m really excited about that.”
Following a scoreless opening quarter, Albright assumed a 3-0 lead on Dan Sobolewski’s 33-yard field goal, 13:06 before the intermission.
“I don’t think so,” said Monos of the prospect of his club playing in a bowl game with a 6-4 record. “I’d be really surprised. I told the guys I’d get to them on Sunday night.
“In the coaching profession you keep your job by winning,” Monos concluded. “Six wins gets you a year. Seven wins gets you two years. I’ve got to work hard next year. But in big games we didn’t do it. We didn’t beat those teams.”
LVC receiver Jake Zeigler caught seven balls for 89 yards. Zach Halpin paced the Flying Dutchmen defense with nine tackles and a sack and a half.