BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – It probably wouldn’t help land a job, get a promotion or anything like that in the real world. But if the senior class of the Lebanon Valley football squad was to put together a resume of on-field accomplisments, it might look something like this:
Wins in two of three straight postseason appearances.
8-3 record in 2011.
Winningest class in Lebanon Valley College football history.
2011 ECAC South-West Bowl Champions.
All-around good guys.
On Saturday afternoon at Arnold Field, the Flying Dutchmen seniors and the LVC football squad went out with a bang, and in the process left their mark on the program. Lebanon Valley defeated Saint Vincent 22-15 in a well-played, close-to-the-vest, defensive-oriented ECAC South-West Bowl game.
It was somehow appropriate that the outcome wasn’t decided until the LVC defense turned Saint Vincent over on downs near midfield with less than two minutes to play. For it was a day for the Flying Dutchmen defense, which got 11 tackles, including three sacks from senior end and game MVP Cory Homer, an intercetion return for touchdown out of outside linebacker Macke Hall,Zach Weiman’s blocked extra-point which changed the complexion of the scoring and numerous big stops at key times.
“Today was about what we did, in terms of getting an opportunity to play a postseason game,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos through his ear-to-ear grin. “Today was about winning a championship and getting some hardware. That’s what it was about. It was about three straight years of being in the postseason, and two of the three we won.
“It’s their legacy now,” Monos continued. “The 2011 team and this senior group, they’re the winningest class in the history of the program. They want to leave that legacy. That’s history. You’re in the books.”
“Hopefully I’ll remember everything,” said Homer. “This is the best time I had in my life, this year. I’m so glad I came here. The coaches are amazing. You don’t need to be the biggest, fastest player. If you bust your butt, you’ll get on the field.”
Down 15-10 early in the final period, Lebanon Valley drove 65 yards in nine plays and four minutes. Senior tailback Ben Guiles covered the final five yards to put the Flying Dutchmen up 16-15.
Then after Lebanon Valley stopped Saint Vincent on a fourth-down play deep in their own territory, Guiles needed just one play to provide the Flying Dutchmen with a little working margin. His four-yard jaunt with 2:32 to go pushed Lebanon Valley’s lead to eight points.
“Perform,” said Monos. “That was our point coming in. When you’re in a bowl game, every team is good. These two teams played to win.’
“We just played like we did all year,” said Homer. “We played whistle to whistle. My job is to motivate people and make sure everyone keeps their cool. If everyone does their responsiblities, we’ll come out on top, just like we did today.”
Hall’s 52-yard ‘pick six’ came 5:35 into the second quarter and gave Lebanon Valley a 10-0 lead. Lebanon Valley drove its second possession of the day 71 yards in 16 plays to get a 28-yard Sean Fakete field goal and assume a 3-0 advantage.
“For me and the coaching staff, I felt like we got the most out of our football team,” said Monos. “At the end of the season, we were peaking. If you go to the Big Show, it’s a tough road. We got hardware. We got a banner that says we’re champs.”
“Last week we knew we were in a bowl game,” said Homer. “This week, it’s over. The seniors knew it was our last game. We played the game like it was our last game. We didn’t want to repeat last year (a loss in their season-ending bowl game). We had to live with it for a whole year.”
Forty-one seconds before the break, the Bearcats got on the board, thanks to a six-yard hook-up between Jarius Marlow and quarterback Aaron Smetanka. But Lebanon Valley blocked the extra-point attempt to keep its lead at four points.
Saint Vincent took a 15-10 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, an eight-yard touchdown run from Aaron Smetanka. Earlier in the period, a 21-yard field goal had pulled the Bearcats to within a point at 10-9.
“The defense played awesome,” said Homer. “A bunch of guys stepped up. Macke Hall, that was his biggest game ever. And I wouldn’t have been nothing without the rest of my defensive line.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Homer added. “It’s the thing I’m going to miss most, the family thing.”
“First of all, you go back to the beginning of the season when we were picked sixth in the conference, and we finished fourth,” said Monos. “The three teams we lost to had a total of four losses in the season. 26-4, that’s who we lost to. We didn’t make the plays in those particular football games. But 8-3, that sounds pretty good.”
Saturday represented the first time that Lebanon Valley hosted a postseason game of any kind. Saint Vincent, which is located in Latrobe, PA, ended its campaign 6-5.
“I never thought I’d be the MVP,” said Homer. “It came on me. I wasn’t expecting this. But the game plan was there. We stopped them most of the day. We just had to do our jobs and play our kind of football.
“It just kind of developed,” Homer continued. “The whole sack thing only developed this year. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the game plan or getting help from my teammates.”
“Up until this year, Cory was a solid football player,” said Monos. “But it was like he was overshadowed before by (graduated end) Zach Bleiler. He took it upon himself, and he just plays.”