BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Except for a measure of defense, the Lebanon Valley College football team couldn’t have scripted a much better season opener. And it was the Flying Dutchmen’s leading man who showed the way.
LVC kicked off its 2011 campaign on Saturday afternoon at Arnold Field with a convincing 57-42 triumph over Gettysburg. Lebanon Valley dominated most facets of the game, espcially on offense, and took control of the outcome after halftime.
Senior tailback Ben Guiles paced the Flying Dutchmen’s 547-yard offensive output with 246 total yards and a school-record five touchdowns. Guiles tallied LVC’s first five TDs, as the Flying Dutchmen opened a 37-22 advantage in the early in the third period.
Lebanon Valley returned five starters on offense and four on defense from a 2010 club that went 6-5 and qualified for its second consecutive postseason appearance. In spite of the outcome, Gettysburg still owns the all-time series with Lebanon Valley, 31-7-1.
“Any time you win the first one, it’s a great feeling,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos. “And the way we won it made it even more special. The first quarter was a dogfight, even in the third quarter, it was a dogfight. But it was fun watching them play today.”
“Obviously, we expected to win,” said Guiles, a product of Columbia High. “We came out a little sloppy, but once we got a rhythm we did all the little things well. Right out of the gates, we could’ve been better. But this was nothing short of our expectations.”
Nursing a one-point halftime edge, Guiles tallied his fourth and fifth touchdowns of the day to put the Flying Dutchmen up 15 points. An 18-yard jaunt to paydirt was followed by a 57-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Colt Zarilla.
Gettysburg would never come within two scores of the Flying Dutchmen.
“Oh my gosh, did he really have five touchdowns?” said Monos of his bread-and-butter back. “But in order to run the ball, you’ve got to get it done up front. We have some weapons. Defensively, we scrapped and fought and ran to the ball.
“They (the Bullets) were bringing people down hill,” Monos added. “They were committed to stopping the run.’
“What the offense did so well is to stay connected,” said Guiles. “There weren’t too many defenders running free. I’ve got to thank my offensive linemen and fullbacks. And the receivers were doing their job down field.”
Guiles, an all-American candidate, gained 119 yards and scored three touchdowns in the first half. His 28-yard touchdown romp over flailing, would-be Gettysburg tacklers with 3:30 remaining in the second period gave LVC a 23-22 margin at the break.
Guiles’ longest run of the day – a 59-yard sprint down the near sideline – had staked the Flying Dutchmen to a 16-14 edge early in the stanza.
“I don’t know about that,” said Monos to the suggestion of a perfectly scripted opener. “That score at halftime, it was anyone’s ball game. The little things matter in close ball games.
“There’s no question,” Monos continued. “We were tired of scrimmaging each other. We were anxious to play. During the week, I thought they (his players) were ready to perform.”
“I don’t pay attention to external stuff in football,” said Guiles of his five scores. “My job as a tailback, the number one responsibility is to make the first guy miss. They (the coaches) give me a little freedom and let me go where I want.”
Lebanon Valley took a 9-6 first-quarter lead on a 22-yard field goal from Sean Fakette. The sophomore, who had gone 16-for-16 on PATS at the end of last season, had missed an extra point on the Flying Dutchmen’s first touchdown of the year, a nine-yard scamper by Guiles.
Guiles capped a 62-yard, five-play drive, but Gettysburg responded just 1:15 later with a Freddy Caruso burst that gave it a 7-6 edge.
“I’d like to say it’s coaching, but I don’t think so,” said Monos of Guiles’ efficiency. “He is a talented football player with a tremendous work ethic. He is a super young man. He’s modest, but he’s good.
“He can cut on a dime and get going again,” Monos added. “He’s back at full tilt right away. Ben has ‘it’. He’s the perfect I-formation tailback.”
Guiles’ five touchdowns gave him 32 for his career.
“We want to win the MAC (Middle Atlantic Conference) championship,” said Guiles. “That was our number-one goal. Even though we were picked six, it is not out of reach.”
“We were anxious coming in because we’re young up front and we’re young in the secondary,” said Monos. “But the last three weeks we became a team. We came to Week One and got a win. But these guys have a lot of work to do.”
Despite six sacks, the Lebanon Valley defense yielded 460 total yards.
Next week, Lebanon Valley travels to Grove City. The next time the Flying Dutchmen play at home will be September 24, opposite Stevenson.