Cougars con­clude reg­u­lar sea­son with loss

The Citizens' Voice - - COLLEGE SPORTS - BY TOM FOX COR­RE­SPON­DENT Con­tact the writer: sports@cit­i­zensvoice.com

DAL­LAS — With wind gust­ing through Man­gels­dorf Field, and snow show­ers swirling around, Mark Ross was asked about his ex­pe­ri­ence coach­ing Mis­eri­cor­dia in this his­toric 2018 sea­son.

Even af­ter a tough 21-14 loss to Ly­coming Satur­day — one where a Cougar win could have meant a co-cham­pi­onship or out­right ti­tle in the MAC, the sev­enth-year head coach never skipped a beat.

“Ev­ery week, I was thrilled for these guys,” Ross said. “But when you keep win­ning, it doesn’t make it any eas­ier. The fo­cus as a coach was mak­ing sure you did ev­ery­thing to make sure they were ready. You don’t want to lose a game be­cause you feel that you didn’t do a good job. I don’t feel that way to­day. Ly­coming made some plays they had to make.”

In the end, it was just too many mis­takes on a win­ter­like af­ter­noon in the Back Moun­tain as Mis­eri­cor­dia turned the ball over four times and were held score­less in the sec­ond half.

Yet, there were plenty of pos­i­tives as the 21 se­niors hon­ored walked off the field.

Mis­er­cor­dia, in its prior six sea­sons, only found the win col­umn five times. In 2018, the Cougars strung to­gether eight straight wins af­ter a Week 1 set­back to the United States Mer­chant Marine Academy.

And it seems all but cer­tain Mis­eri­cor­dia will get a spot in the an­nual Cen­ten­nial-mac Bowl Se­ries next week.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing be­cause we had a chance to win a cham­pi­onship or at least share one, but that last step is al­ways the hard­est to take,” Ross said. “I’m not go­ing to hang my head for the sea­son that we put to­gether. I’m proud of these guys.”

With the way Satur­day started, it seemed like Mis­eri­cor­dia (8-2, 7-1 MAC) was go­ing to walk out with at least a co-cham­pi­onship in themac.

Ly­coming fum­bled on the first play from scrim­mage as Cougar se­nior Joe Grasso jumped on the ball, set­ting his team up deep in­side War­rior ter­ri­tory. They only needed five plays to score as quar­ter­back Aaron Brady, start­ing in place of in­jured Brady Wil­liams, found Isiah Wil­liams in the mid­dle of the end zone for a 7-0 lead not even four min­utes in.

It could have been even larger as Gar­rett Mur­ray picked off Ly­coming’s Eli­jah She­mory on the War­riors’ next of­fen­sive se­ries. But Brady give the ball right back on the very next play with an in­ter­cep­tion of his own.

“That’s a good team,” Ly­coming head coach Mike Clark said. “Listen, they aren’t the most ath­letic team in the league. They aren’t as ath­letic as Del Val or Stevenson, but nei­ther are we. The thing that is so ad­mirable about Mis­eri­cor­dia is they had the chance to play for a cham­pi­onship. I can’t over­state how proud that pro­gram should be. I’ve been a head coach for 11 years, and I’ve never won eight straight games. It’s a re­mark­able job by Mark and his boys.”

Ly­coming (5-5, 4-4 MAC) set­tled down from that point.

Clark’s team strung to­gether an 11-play, 66-yard pos­ses­sion that chewed nearly six min­utes off the clock and ended on a short 2-yard TD burst by Wy­oming Area grad Justin Joseph knot­ting the game at 7.

The War­riors that won the bat­tle of the sec­ond quar­ter as Ly­coming got the gamewin­ning score six sec­onds be­fore half­time. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of a short kick­off com­bined with a Mis­eri­cor­dia per­sonal foul penalty, the Ly­coming County boys needed eight plays to cover the 45 yards — capped off when She­mory con­nected with Brock Zol­li­cof­fer for a 10-yard score and 21-14 lead at half­time.

With wind gusts in the high 20s most of the sec­ond half, nei­ther of­fense re­ally got go­ing. The fi­nal 30 min­utes fea­tured five punts, four in­ter­cep­tions and two se­ries stopped on downs.

The Cougars had two golden chances to knot the game at 21 in the fourth quar­ter – but both times were stopped in­side Ly­coming ter­ri­tory.

The fi­nal play, a fourt­hand-10 from the Ly­coming 28, al­most tied the game but Brady’s pass was just past the out­stretched arms of Klay­ton Kelly in the end zone.

“Mark and his team are ex­tremely re­silient, and we knew they’ve come back to win mul­ti­ple times this year,” Clark said. “We wanted them to deal with the wind in the fourth quar­ter, and we felt good about our de­fense. We just had to trust our kids. I’m proud of them for fin­ish­ing the game.”

DAVE SCHER­BENCO / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Mis­eri­cor­dia’s Ja­mal Dal­las, left, is met by Ly­coming’s Sam Ro­manof­sky dur­ing Satur­day’s reg­u­lar sea­son fi­nale at Man­gels­dorf Field.

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