There couldn’t be a more fitting game to be played on a Division I university’s football field than the one scheduled for tonight between Mount Carmel and Lewisburg at Bucknell University.
Three weeks into the season, Red Tornadoes (1-1, 1-1 HAC-III) head coach John Darrah said he can’t think of a single more important matchup than tonight against the Green Dragons and head coach Marc Persing.
“This is a big time, must win game,” Darrah said.
And the reasons are aplenty.
After recovering from a 2017 season that was all but wiped out due to a plague of injuries, Lewisburg (2-0, 2-0 HAC-I) used its first two weeks of play this year to solidify itself as a resounding favorite to win the HAC-I division.
Meanwhile, Persing is showing himself to be a well-rounded coach who has brought a deceptive and tough-to-prepare-for pro-style offense to the team that has, thus far, produced District 4’s leading rusher in sophomore Max Moyers.
Through two weeks, the undersized halfback has run for 388 yards on just 28 carries for six touchdowns (13.9 yards per carry). Darrah described Moyers as a dangerous runner that makes up for a lack in height with quickness and the ability to turn a small seam into a big play.
On the other side of the equation, the Red Tornadoes have more-or-less shut down the vaunted run offense of Southern Columbia for the second year in a row, evidenced by last week’s allowance of only 130 yards on the ground, which totals 170 yards under the Tigers’ 2017 average.
Darrah is adamant that purely stopping the run, or completely disallowing the pass, is not the key to the Red Tornadoes’ victory and, in fact, goes against the style of defense he runs.
“Our defense is designed to give you a chance with both the run and the pass. If we get hurt with either, we can adjust, but they are pretty balanced and that makes it tough for us.”
Darrah said the Lewisburg offense has the ability to wear multiple hats and punish teams that fall into the trap of overplaying a type of offense.
“They’re very multiple,” he said. “That’s pretty much the only way you can describe their offense. They have some spread sets and they have a double-wing set that is not that much different than us.”
He continued, “It’s like a pro-style offense. They give you a wide variety of plays and it’s very difficult to prepare for a team like this. It’s similar to what we saw from Central (Columbia) in Week 1.”
Lewisburg junior quarterback Nick Shedleski has done an admirable job of introducing the pass game to an offense that has been dominated by Moyers.
Shedleski has thrown the ball 29 times and completed 17 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. His primary target has been senior Dylan Farronato, who has caught 11 of the completions for 239 yards.
The one-sided nature of the Lewisburg receiving game is deceptively tricky to defend against due to the way that Persing has used Farronato.
“They move him around a lot,” Darrah said of Farronato. “It’s very tough to get a bead on where he’s going to line up every down. We played against him every year and we have experience against him. He’s got good hands and can run solid routes — we know they’re going to get him the ball a lot.”
If the Red Tornadoes did opt to double team the senior receiver, Darrah said it could cause confusion with his secondary.
“How they use him certainly adds to the difficulty of doubling him,” he said. “It’s a lot easier when guys will line up in the same spot.”
Following last week’s loss to Southern, Darrah said he doesn’t feel the schedule will be lightening up any time soon.
“Lewisburg is a very good football team,” he said. “They are rolling and have had two very big wins. We are in a position where we have to bounce back and we’re right in the heart of our schedule while doing it. We’re looking forward and it doesn’t get any easier ahead so every game is going to be crucial for us.”