BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Progressing, moving ahead and taking that next step is a process. It’s a process that we as humans almost always want to happen sooner than it was meant to.
Lebanon Valley College will not be considered among the elite football programs in the Middle Atlantic Conference this season. But there were times on Saturday when it looked like it might.
In its quest to move into the upper echelon of the conference, the Flying Dutchmen experienced a monumental collapse at Arnold Field, squandering a 16-point lead with less than five minutes left, before falling to Widener 40-37 in overtime. James McFadden’s 33-yard field goal in Widener’s first possession of overtime proved to the decisive points, after Sean Fakete had misfired on a shorter field goal attempt in LVC’s possession in extra time.
Widener, one of the conference’s perennial powerhouses, tallied two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversion during the final 4:40 of regulation. First, Tyler Rank capped a 57-second possession with a one-yard plunge.
Then, Pride cornerback Al Masterson returned a tipped pass intended for LVC’s Joey Miller 64 yards for a score with 2:11 to go. The pick-six came from a third-down-and-six pass play, when the Flying Dutchmen had an opportunity to run the ball and then punt it away.
With the loss, Lebanon Valley slipped to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the MAC. Widener, the 18th ranked Division Three team in the country which was coming off a 90-0 blasting of Wilkes, moved to 5-0 on the season and 4-0 in the league.
“We didn’t finish, for whatever reason,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos. “Having two losses in the conference puts us behind the eight-ball. We’ll second guess throwing on third down. That was my decision. I’ll take responsibility for that. You’ve got to re-evaluate your goals. With two losses, we’re not going to win the MAC.
“They (the Pride) threw everybody in the box,” Monos continued, “and I didn’t think we could get a first down running the ball. We missed a field goal. We missed an extra point. All those things came into play. It’s a team loss.”
The Flying Dutchmen looked dominant in posting 26 unanswered points and taking a 37-21 lead late into the final quarter.
A five-yard scoring pass from Leo Kyte to Miller jump-started the Lebanon Valley roll and pulled it to within 21-13 at halftime. The Flying Dutchmen drove the second-half kickoff 68 yards to get an Evan Fink one-yard plunge that made it a 21-20.
And Fakete’s 28-yard three-pointer with 6:19 left in the third stanza gave LVC a 23-21 edge.
“It’s not a good feeling,” said Monos of LVC’s collapse. “But the momentum was such a good feeling, when we were up 16 points. It was like, ‘Hey, we’re in good position.
“Yep, this was a tough one,” Monos continued. “But you’ve got to give it to them. They came back when they were down 16 points. It was a team loss. They needed two touchdowns and two two-point conversions to tie it. It was disappointing. They earned it.”
Lebanon Valley appeared poise to blow the Pride right back to Chester.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Monos. “It’s disheartening. We worked awfully hard. This is a good league. No we can’t take any consolation from the fact that we stood toe-to-toe with Widener. It’s about the outcome. We have a couple of games to look back on (as tough losses), but this ranks right up there.”
After falling into an early 14-0 hole, Lebanon Valley got on the board with a 75-yard touchdown bomb from Kyte to Miller in the middle of the second stanza.
“What happened in the first half, they (the Pride) were like five for six on fourth-down conversions,” Monos said. “We were playing good defense, but we weren’t getting stops. They were taking chances.
“Early in the football game, to be down 21-13 at halftime, I felt fortunate,” added Monos. “We had two or three relatively easy interceptions. The would’ve, should’ve, could’ves, it’s a club I don’t want to be a part of.”
Kyte went 23-for-38 for a career-high 395 yards passing and two interceptions. Miller hauled in 11 passes for 182 yards, while complement Jake Ziegler caught eight aerials for 121 yards.
Lebanon Valley out gained Widener 511 total yards to 449.
“Leo made some big-time throws today,” said Monos. “But I’m sure he’d take the ‘W’ over the passing yards. When the goal is to win a championship and that goal is taken away from you, we’ve got to take a look at regrouping. We want to have a winning season and finish as high in the MAC as we can.”