BY JEFF FALK
LEWISBURG – One should never rain on another’s parade, squash someone else’s dreams.
Sure it seems like an especially long shot. But if there’s one person you should never ever count out – never tell he can’t do something – it’s Mark Pyles.
Apparently, Pyles is not done with football, and it may be that football is not done with Pyles. And when we’re not true to our dreams, we can regret it for the rest of our lives.
On a warm Saturday afternoon at Bucknell University’s Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium, Pyles played in the next-to-next-to last game of his Division One college career. Though the Bison endured a 42-21 Patriot League setback at the hands of Lehigh, the 2014 graduate of Lebanon High School and senior linebacker turned in his usual consistent effort – competing hard, playing smart and even coming up with his first career interception.
Lehigh opened a 28-7 bulge before the first quarter was out, and Bucknell was never able to get closer than three possessions the rest of the way. The result left the Bison 4-5 overall and 1-3 in the Patriot League.
The Mountain Hawks improved to 3-6 on the year and 3-1 in the circuit.
After the game, Pyles was non-committal when asked to contemplate his future in a sport he’s been playing since the age of six.
“If there’s an opportunity that presents itself, I’ll take it,” said Pyles. “I’ll try to put myself in front of people. I’m going to pursue it (catching on with a professional team). I love the game. It’s tough to play at the next level, anywhere. I’m going to work hard to try and open up some opportunities for myself. There’s a lot of opportunities to play more football.
“It starts with me improving and being the best player I can be,” continued Pyles, “and then getting in front of the right people. It comes down to the work I put in. It’s what you make of it.”
To go along with his first-ever college interception – a diving pick along the right sideline in the third quarter – Pyles registered ten tackles, seven of which were of the solo variety and one of which was a sack. Yesterday marked the second time this season Pyles reached double digits in tackles, and the eighth time in his career.
But Lehigh gouged the Bison defense for 383 total yards, 190 of which came on the ground.
“It was a little bit of both,” said Pyles, to the notion that the result was based more on Lehigh playing well than Bucknell not. “We knew coming in they had a good offense. But we have a good defense, so something had to give. They made plays. Some things didn’t go our way. Ultimately it’s on us. You have to be disappointed. Any time you give up 42 points, you can’t be happy. We needed to be better today.
“It’s (the season) been a little up and down,” Pyles continued. “We’ve been battling in games. We’re playing our hearts out, out there, on both sides of the ball.”
A bit undersized at 6-0 and 220 pounds, Pyles, extremely intelligent and a relentless worker, is in his second season as a Bucknell captain. He was a second-team All-Patriot League selection at linebacker as a junior.
“Football teaches you how to handle adversity and to never quit, and it makes you a better man,” said Pyles, who sports a 3.63 grade-point average and is on schedule to graduate with his degree in economics in May. “I enjoy the camaraderie. It’s a special bond here. If you don’t like competition, it’s not the sport for you. It makes you a better person, learning to deal with different situations and finding answers to problems. The people you meet, and the things you learn from the game, it gives you a special feeling.
“My number-one goal coming into the season was to win a championship,” Pyles added. “After that, it was to win as many games as possible. If we’re winning games, I’m happy.”
In nine games this season, Pyles has piled up 68 total tackles, 36 solos and 32 assists. During his 40 career games, Pyles has registered 226 tackles and five sacks.
“You try not to think about it, but you know it’s coming,” said Pyles about the end of his collegiate career. “But it forces you to soak in every moment, and make the most of it.
“That’s a question (his exact plans after graduation) my parents ask me everyday,” concluded Pyles. “The way I look at it, this could be my last two weeks of playing football. I’ll worry about the other stuff later.”
Pyles will concluded his college career with a home game against Georgetown on November 11th and a road tilt at Fordham on November 18th.
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|Sat, Sep 02||Marist||Lewisburg, Pa.||6:00 PM||45 – 6(W)|
|Sat, Sep 09||Holy Cross *||Lewisburg, Pa.||12:00 PM||0 – 20(L)|
|Sat, Sep 16||William & Mary||Williamsburg, Va.||6:00 PM||9 – 30(L)|
|Sat, Sep 23||Sacred Heart||Lewisburg, Pa.||6:00 PM||34 – 31(W)|
|Sat, Sep 30||Monmouth||Lewisburg, Pa.||6:00 PM||13 – 35(L)|
|Sat, Oct 14||Cornell||Ithaca, N.Y.||1:30 PM||26 – 18(W)|
|Sat, Oct 21||Lafayette *||Easton, Pa.||3:30 PM||13 – 7(W) OT|
|Sat, Oct 28||Colgate *||Hamilton, N.Y.||1:00 PM||3 – 40(L)|
|Sat, Nov 04||Lehigh *||Lewisburg, Pa.||12:00 PM|
|Sat, Nov 11||Georgetown *||Lewisburg, Pa.||12:00 PM|
|Sat, Nov 18||Fordham *||Bronx, N.Y.||1:00 PM|
Mark Pyles’ Career Statistics at Bucknell