ANNVILLE – Comebacks are very absolute, very conclusive. But that doesn’t make failed comebacks any less courageous.
On a murky Saturday afternoon at Arnold Field on the campus of Lebanon Valley College, a spirited comeback by the LVC football team came up just short, during a 33-27, 2OT setback to FDU-Florham. Connor Perez’s one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Caserta during FDU-Florham’s second overtime possession was the decisive score.
After the Flying Dutchmen scored on three of four late-regulation possessions to erase a 24-7 deficit and force overtime, the two sides traded medium-range field goals in the initial extra session. Before the Caserta-to-Perez game-winner, Lebanon Valley missed out on a chance to take the lead when Malachi Williams’ fumble was ruled to have occurred at the one-yard line – before he broke the plane of the goal line -and thus a touchback.
“This should hurt,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Joe Buehler. “We came that close to beating an undefeated team (in the conference). Certainly it should sting, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we made a great comeback.
“That’s what usually happens in overtime,” continued Buehler. “It comes down to one mistake. I’m proud of our freshman kicker (Kevin Roberts, who connected on a 39-yard field goal in the first overtime). But that’s what you get with overtimes.”
With the loss, Lebanon Valley fell to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the Middle Atlantic Conference. FDU-Florham upped its seasonal mark to 4-1 and its conference record to 3-0.
“We have to keep getting better,” said Buehler. “We’re a a good football team. We were three scores down and fought back to take a very good opponent to overtime. I’m proud of these guys. We’re an improved football and the wins are going to come.
“We came within inches of keeping this going and possibly winning in overtime,” added Buehler. “We have to come back and get better. What’s exciting is our ability to win.”
Trailing 24-17 late in the fourth quarter, LVC freshman quarterback and Elco graduate Braden Bohannon engineered a 14-play, 80-yard march in 3:54, to tie the score with 42 seconds remaining in overtime. Bohannon took it over himself from a yard away, on a fourth-down snap.
“He is awesome,” said Buehler of Bohannon. “He just keeps growing. He has all the leadership skills. He’s the leader of our offense from an on-field standpoint. He loves to get better. He’s a sponge. He’s already audibling and changing plays at the line of scrimmage.”
Down 17 points in the middle of the third quarter, Lebanon Valley pieced together a pair of extended possessions to get back in it.
The Flying Dutchmen drove 67 yards in 13 plays to get the Roberts’ 24-yard field goal that made it 24-10. On its ensuing possessions, LVC marched 90 yards on 12 snaps to set up Ian Murhon’s two-yard touchdown run that created a one-possession game.
“I thought offensively we stayed patient,” said Buehler. “What they (the Devils) do is make other teams feel like they’re in a shoot-out. But they have a really good defense, as well. We were able to be physical at the line of scrimmage. I’m super pleased.”
The Flying Dutchmen had also driven the opening kickoff 70 yards in 12 plays and 5:49 to assume a 7-0 lead. Lebanon Valley did an admirable job of mixing the run with the pass, ahead of Bohannon’s one-yard sneak.
But FDU-Florham posted 17 second-quarter points, then scored on its initial possession of the second half to extend its lead.
“We’re going to play a homecoming game next week to get to .500,” said Buehler of an October 16th meeting with Alvernia. “The goals remain the same, to get that 11th game. The only way to do that is to finish in the top four in the league. Hopefully, some upsets will happen.”
With its balanced attack, Lebanon Valley outgained FDU-Florham 455-360 in the total yards department. Some 241 of the Flying Dutchmen’s offensive yards came on the ground.
Bohannon completed 18 of his 29 pass attempts for 208 yards, while rushing 24 times for 62 yards. M. Williams toted the rock 20 times for 117 yards on the ground.