|Lycoming superfan Dave Roberts has seen 299 games in a row.|
If you look too quickly, you might not even notice him. But trust me, he's there.
He's been there for every Lycoming football game -- home or away, regular season or playoffs -- since the final game of the 1982 season. And when Lycoming takes the field against Delaware Valley in Saturday's crucial MAC matchup, Dave Roberts -- with a Lycoming hat on his head and a notebook in hand -- will be there, roaming the sidelines.
Saturday's game will mark Roberts' 300th consecutive Lycoming game. His streak is older than the entire current roster. When fourth-year head coach Mike Clark was a freshman at Lycoming back in 1989, Roberts' streak was already seven years old.
"It's simply a matter of pure, dumb luck," said Roberts, a 1977 Lycoming graduate. "It's one of these things -- I haven't gotten sick during the fall for whatever reason, the car hasn't broken down in the middle of nowhere. I've had a couple close calls."
Roberts has seen some of the best and worst Lycoming football has had to offer. He vividly remembers the first Lycoming contest he ever saw -- a 25-0 loss to Wilkes in which Lycoming had three interceptions and a blocked punt all returned for touchdowns. But Roberts also remembers Lycoming's two national championship appearances -- a 21-14 overtime loss to Allegheny in 1990 and a 61-12 loss to Mount Union in 1997.
Roberts, who never missed a home game during his four years at the college, moved to Florida with a friend after graduation, hoping to secure a steady job. It didn't pan out, and within a year, Roberts was back home. Roberts made it to every game from 1979 until the end of the 1982 season, when he missed one because his former roommate had secured tickets to a West Point game the same day. That has been the last Lycoming game Roberts missed.
Along the way Roberts, who lives in New Jersey and works for Aetna (previously Prudential before Aetna purchased it), has battled snow, flooding, weddings and even sellouts to keep his streak alive.
Just two weeks ago, in Lycoming's first-ever visit to Stevenson, Roberts nearly missed the game because Stevenson had sold out all its tickets. As luck would have it, a student seeking food bank donations turned in her ticket for a donation, enabling Roberts a chance to get in, even if he was forced to watch from the stands.
"I'm a sidelines wanderer," Roberts said. "I do not sit in the stands. I was going nuts [at Stevenson], I had to sit up in the stands. Oh my God, what am I going to do up there?"
In 1997, Roberts' sister got married in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on a Friday. Roberts was able to catch the final 10 minutes of the Lycoming-Widener game that Saturday after making the drive from Myrtle Beach to Williamsport, Pa.
In 2003, Roberts would have missed the Warriors' third-round NCAA playoff game against Bridgewater if not for a major ice storm that postponed the game from Saturday to Sunday, a weekend more well known for the sudden death of Lycoming receiver Ricky Lannetti.
Roberts has no plans to end his streak, but admits that even the best luck runs out eventually.
"You never know what's going to happen," Roberts said. "There's just going to be one of those weeks where something's going to come up and I'm just not going to be able to get there."
Roberts readily admits he most enjoys talking to fans of opposing schools. From his experience, Bridgewater fans are the "nicest," Wilkes fans have "no sense of humor," and Susquehanna fans ... well, Roberts lets some of the rivalry stories do the talking.
"In 1991 some Susquehanna fans had shirts made up that read, 'Lyco Sucks,'" Roberts said.
He pauses for dramatic effect.
"We beat 'em that year," he said with a laugh. "I thought we should make up shirts that read, 'Who Susqx Now?'"
Before any Susquehanna fans take offense, take particular note that Roberts is joking. Though he roots against an old rival, Roberts is as big a Division III supporter as you will find.
Roberts' longest road trip was the 1990 title game against Allegheny, which was played at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla. He said most fans point to that team's win over Hofstra in the NCAA semifinals that season as the program's greatest victory, and Roberts won't argue with that. But one of his personal favorites is a loss.
"I can't really describe to you why, [but] it's the 1989 playoff game we played at home against Ferrum," Roberts said. "Chris Warren was their halfback. And the other halfback they had was a kid named Freddie Stovall. Chris Warren, of course, was like Herschel Walker. Freddie Stovall was like Joe Morris. ... We lost that game 49-24 and I consider it one of the best games we ever played."
Roberts, now 56 years old, has accepted that Lycoming isn't the perennial contender it used to be. But he still hopes for a playoff berth each season, though he admits that, with the restructured format, a road playoff game could finally break his streak.
"I understand that our period to be in the sun was the 1990s," Roberts said. "We made the playoffs, made the championship twice, that type of thing. We're not in the league at all with a Mount Union, with a Wisconsin-Whitewater, some of these teams. We're a good little team. I enjoy watching them play."
So when Roberts, who received a plaque on Oct. 27, 2001, for his 200th straight game, takes the sidelines for his 300th straight game this Saturday, he'll be doing for the same reasons he did when he first saw the Warriors play in 1973.
Ted Bick '58, Union
If you've ever attended a Union football game at Frank Bailey Field, you've probably heard a familiar trumpet ringing out after a Dutchmen score.
That would be Ted Bick, a 1958 Union graduate, retired mathematics professor and lifelong Dutchmen fan, playing Union's fight song and alma mater along with a group of alumni that sing the words.
"It's crazy when you really only have a reportoire that consists of two tunes -- the fight song and the alma mater," Bick said. "That's my entire body of work."
Bick's body of work in life over the last 60 years or so is considerably more versatile. Bick, a Korean War veteran, attended Union from 1954-58 and then went on to graduate school at the University of Rochester. Upon finishing his master's, Bick taught for five years at Hobart-William Smith.
In 1966, Bick returned to Union, where he would teach until retiring in 1993.
"I was always willing to cheer for the University of Rochester, or Hobart if I happened to be there, but my heart really belongs to Union," Bick said.
Bick, who was a member of the Union men's basketball team in his undergraduate years, coached the men's and women's cross country teams for 10 years upon returning to his alma mater. Bick also took up running himself, finishing at least 20 marathons, including the Boston Marathon 13 times.
After retiring, Bick was approached by Tad Knight and John Rockwell, two of the alumni in the small group that sang on game days. As Bick recalls it, Knight said they needed someone to play an instrument so they could stay in tune. Bick had some experience with the trumpet, so he gave it a shot.
Now, after every Union touchdown, extra point or field goal from 40 yards or longer, Bick's trumpet rings out through the stadium. Bick said he doesn't make it to many away games, but he remembers Union's two national championship berths in 1983 and 1989 fondly.
"I still think we could beat Augustana," Bick said of the 1983 title game, which Union lost, 21-17. "But you don't get a chance to play them again."
Dick Vogt and Betty Walther, Hobart
Dick Vogt and Betty Walther work together in the Hobart-William Smith dining services, checking student IDs at the cafeteria doors. But the two also share a strong sense of pride for the Hobart football team.
Vogt, a retired local business owner, took the part-time job at Hobart seven years ago as something to do to keep busy. Walther has worked at the school for 25 years. But on Saturdays, you can find both at the Hobart home games. They never miss them.
"I just love football," Vogt said. "... This team up here was good when I first started coming."
Vogt, who graduated from Geneva High School, said he's a loyal Buffalo Bills fan. But following the Statesmen has been just as natural. He's even built up a nice collection of game DVDs, courtesy of the team.
Walther credits Scott Yoder, a 2001 Hobart graduate and the team's defensive coordinator, for getting her to come out to her first game years ago. Since then, Walther has been a regular at home games.
"I just enjoy watching the boys," Walther said. "I get excited when they get excited. ... Every year they teach me something new."
Walther might even be a bigger fan of the Hobart hockey team.
"I'm a diehard hockey fan," she said. "I've never missed a home game [except for] only one. Only one in the last, maybe, eight or nine years."
Five teams + two weeks = one wide open NJAC
Well this looks familiar, doesn't it? With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the NJAC remains an open race. We only need to look to last season for a similar scenario.
Last year, Rowan, Montclair State and Cortland State all finished with identical 9-1 overall records and 8-1 NJAC marks. Rowan found itself on the outside looking in, while Montclair State and Cortland State each went on to win in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.
This season, those same three teams are right in the mix, along with Kean and TCNJ. Kean and Montclair State lead the pack with 6-1 marks in conference, while Cortland (6-2), Rowan (5-2) and TCNJ (4-3) are right behind. How will it all play out over these final two weeks? I've given up trying to guess.
Montclair State bounced back from its first loss of the season with a 38-7 win over Western Connecticut. The Red Hawks leaned heavily on running back Chris D'Andrea, who finished with 231 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. The unusual snow storm that blasted the Northeast made throwing the football a nearly impossible task. So Montclair State rode a heavy dose of D'Andrea and A.J. Scoppa (109 yards, one touchdown) past Western Connecticut. The running game will be pivotal for Montclair State moving forward, as the team is playing with backup quarterback Drew Cathey.
Kean kept pace with Montclair State by knocking off Rowan, 13-6. It was the Cougars' defense that came up with the game-winning play in another snow-blasted contest. Kean's Bekim Bujari returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown with just under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to thwart any chance of a Rowan comeback. Rowan scored first on Kevin DelleDonne's heads-up play in the first quarter. Rowan's Steve Hevalow fumbled the ball at the Kean one-yard line, but DelleDonne recovered it in the end zone. Kean blocked the extra point, and went up 7-6 on Tom D'Ambrisi's eight-yard scoring strike to Chris Suozzo just before halftime.
Cortland kept itself in the thick of the NJAC mix with a 23-20 win over TCNJ. Cody Allen (14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble) spearheaded a defensive unit that forced three TCNJ turnovers. Cortland also scored on a rare blocked extra point, which is worth two points. After TNCJ returned a blocked punt three yards for a touchdown to cut Cortland's lead to 14-6, Cortland's Bill Smith blocked the ensuing extra point. D.J. Romano scooped it up and returned it 84 yards for two points. That three-point swing was the difference in the game.
Here are some clear-cut elimination scenarios -- as it pertains to the NJAC conference title -- heading into this weekend:
- Rowan is eliminated with a loss to Montclair State;
- TNCJ is eliminated with a loss to Western Connecticut or wins by Kean or Montclair State.
Salisbury, St. John Fisher vie for Empire 8
The Empire 8 doesn't have an official championship game, but Saturday's battle between Salisbury and St. John Fisher could be billed as such.
The Sea Gulls and Cardinals boast identical overall records of 7-1 (5-0 Empire 8) and stand as the clear top two contenders in one of the country's toughest conferences.
Salisbury is coming off its first loss of the season, a 23-14 loss to No. 7 Wesley. Ross Flanigan rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown, but Salisbury was unusually sloppy, fumbling four times in a rain-soaked loss. The win helps Wesley more than it hurts Salisbury.
The Sea Gulls would have been on the short list of viable contenders for the top seed in the East had they finished 10-0. The loss eliminates that possibility, but Salisbury should still be in line for a home game in the first round.
St. John Fisher rolled past Utica, 63-36, for its fifth straight win. St. John Fisher hasn't lost since a 36-point defeat to Hobart back on Sept. 24. Since then, Fisher has defeated solid teams like Alfred and Springfield rather convincingly. Quarterback Ryan Kramer was the star of the Cardinals' latest victory, rushing for 244 yards and a school record-tying five touchdowns. Kramer set a new record for rushing yards in a single game by a Cardinals quarterback, and added 156 yards and a touchdown through the air to boot. Dave Vosburgh (14 tackles, one sack, one interception) shined for a defense that has allowed an average of 12.4 points per game over its past five contests.
St. John Fisher had success in slowing down Springfield's triple-option offense, so that bodes well for the Cardinals heading into the Salisbury game. Still, the Sea Gulls haven't lost at home since Oct. 30, 2010, when Wesley pulled out a 17-14 win. Salisbury will be a heavy favorite, but St. John Fisher has been proving skeptics wrong all season. This much is clear -- we'll know the Empire 8 champion after Saturday's game.
Three-team race for MAC crown
Delaware Valley was idle this past weekend, but Widener and Lycoming kept the pressure on with key MAC wins.
The Aggies (8-0, 6-0) still hold a slim lead over the Pride (8-1, 6-1) and the Warriors (7-1, 5-1), but these final two weeks could change everything. Delaware Valley faces Lycoming on the road this Saturday and wraps up at home against Widener the following week.
Widener throttled Albright, 60-20, Saturday behind quarterback Tevin Campbell's 157 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Campbell also tossed a pair of touchdowns in the driving snowstorm that was hammering Reading, Pa. Widener's only loss this season came at Wilkes on Sept. 24. Wilkes (3-4, 3-3) is usually a MAC contender, but is suffering through a down year. Widener, who is idle this weekend, can atone for the early disappointment with a win over Delaware Valley in Week 11.
Lycoming will be in the mix as well, particularly if it can defeat Delaware Valley this weekend. Lycoming edged Lebanon Valley, 10-7, on Saturday in another snow-soaked game. Parker Showers rushed for 115 yards and Zach Klinger scored on a key one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to help Lycoming outlast Lebanon Valley.
Lycoming was able to score 10 points without completing a pass. Klinger failed to connect on any of his three attempts, but his touchdown run proved important. Zack Czap's 29-yard field goal as time expired in the first half gave Lycoming a 10-0 lead.
Liberty League title is Hobart's to lose
As we get set for Week 10, only two unbeaten teams remain in the East Region -- Delaware Valley and ... Hobart?
Hobart entered the season with a solid team, one more than capable of rebounding from a down year to compete for the Liberty League crown. But the Statesmen have exceeded those simple expectations. Rather, they've looked like one of the better teams in the country at certain points this season.
Hobart defeated WPI, 27-13, Saturday behind the running duo of Steven Webb (88 yards, one touchdown) and Bobby Dougherty (83 yards, one touchdown). Like many games in the East this past weekend, the Statesmen and Engineers battled heavy snow at times. But Hobart's defense, led by standouts Devin Worthington (nine tackles, one sack, two fumble recoveries) and Tyre Coleman (seven tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss), limited WPI to just 246 total yards. Hobart's defense has allowed an average of just 13.3 points per game this season, the 18th best mark in the country.
Union (4-4, 4-1), Rochester (3-4, 2-2) and RPI (3-4, 2-2) still have a chance to win the Liberty League, but all three would need Hobart to start losing. The Statesmen face RPI and Rochester in their final two games, so the race could continue into the final week.
Top 25: Kean leapfrogs Montclair State
There wasn't much movement among the East teams ranked in the D3football.com top 25 poll this week. Salisbury, despite its loss to No. 7 Wesley, held steady at No. 11, tops among East Region teams.
Delaware Valley (No. 12) also held steady following its bye week. Kean jumped from No. 18 to No. 16, passing NJAC rival Montclair State, which came in at No. 17 for the second week in a row. Hobart climbed one spot from No. 25 to No. 24.
Cortland State, St. John Fisher, Widener and Lycoming finished outside the Top 25, but received votes.
Drew Connolly passed for 335 yards and tied a school-record with five touchdowns to lead Union to a 38-28 win over RPI in the annual Dutchman Shoes Trophy Game. Connolly connected with Justin Gallo (nine receptions, 115 yards) on three of those touchdowns as the Dutchmen won for the 46th time of the 62 times since the trophy was first presented in 1950. Union leads the all-time series -- which is the oldest collegiate football rivalry in New York State -- 80-25-4. ... Nick Clark scored on a pair of short touchdown runs and the Alfred defense stopped Rochester on a late goal-line stand to help the Saxons secure a 24-17 win. Josh Phillips caught five passes for 108 yards and a touchdown to lead Alfred offensively. ... C.J. Hopson passed for 147 yards and three touchdowns and added 83 yards and a touchdown on the ground to lead Stevenson past FDU-Florham 36-13, marking the program's first MAC victory. Ryan Crawley added 105 rushing yards and a touchdown. ... Andy Rogowski kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired to lift Ithaca to a 13-10 win over Frostburg State. Spence White led Ithaca with nine tackles and forced a key second-half fumble to help the Bombers remain alive in their chase for a 41st consecutive winning season. ... Casey Kacz passed for 290 yards and two scores and ran for 74 yards and two additional touchdowns as Buffalo State handed Brockport State a 51-30 loss in the I-90 Bowl. Mike Doherty caught 10 passes for 158 yards and a score as the Bengals defeated the Golden Eagles for the second straight year. Brockport State had won the previous 10 matchups before 2010. ... Josh Carter rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns to lead Springfield past Hartwick, 62-41, in a snowy shootout. Springfield's Austin Bateman rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns, while Hartwick quarterback Dan Brainard passed for 359 yards and three touchdowns. ... Zach Tivald rushed for 128 yards -- 52 on a first-quarter touchdown run -- to lead Wilkes past King's 13-6 in the annual Mayor's Cup battle. ... Robert Sinegra kicked the go-ahead field goal with 4:09 remaining in the fourth quarter to lift William Paterson to a 17-15 win over Morrisville State in a near blizzard Saturday. Dawys German rushed for 130 yards -- including touchdowns of 41 and 53 yards in the first quarter -- to lead William Paterson.
Salisbury (7-1, 5-0) hosts St. John Fisher (7-1, 5-0) at noon Saturday in the de facto Empire 8 championship game. What more needs to be said about this one? It's the most important Empire 8 game of the season.
If RPI (3-4, 2-2) hopes to keep its slim Liberty League title hopes alive, it must defeat Hobart (6-0, 4-0) at noon Saturday. A Hobart win will eliminate RPI from the conference race and all but wrap up the title for Hobart.
Delaware Valley (8-0, 6-0) is still undefeated, but it begins its most crucial stretch of the season when it faces Lycoming (7-1, 5-1) on the road at 1 p.m. Saturday. After Lycoming, Delaware Valley finishes the regular season at home against Widener (8-1, 6-1).
Montclair State (7-1, 6-1) can eliminate Rowan (5-3, 5-2) from the NJAC conference title race when the two teams play at 1 p.m. Saturday. If Rowan wins, it will remain alive in the crowded conference race.
Other games of note: Cortland State (6-2, 6-2) at Brockport State (2-6, 2-5), 1 p.m., Saturday; Union (4-4, 4-1) at Merchant Marine (2-6, 1-3), 1 p.m., Saturday.
I'm always happy to hear from you, whether its questions, feedback or story ideas. Please reach out to me at email@example.com. You can also follow me on Twitter (@andrew_lovell), and be sure to get involved in the discussions on the Around the East thread on the message board.