WILKES, Pa. – Senior Ryan Wagaman (Aspers, Pa./Biglerville) led the Lycoming College football team by nearly reaching a school-record as he caught a career-high 15 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown, but a 31-point outburst in the second half helped Wilkes University overtake the Warriors, 31-14, in Middle Atlantic Conference action on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 30.
Wagaman, whose previous career highs were 12 catches and 139 yards, fell one reception short of the school record of 16 set by Ricky Lannetti in 2003. Wagaman led the Warriors (5-3 overall, 3-2 MAC) with 11 receptions and 124 yards in the second half, helping sophomore quarterback Zach Klinger (Halifax, Pa./Halifax) establish new career-highs in completions (27), attempts (44) and yards (237).
"Ryan's a tremendous football player," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "If we're losing, who is the guy you want to touch the ball? For us, it's him. If we're passing, we have to find a way to get him the ball."
The two teams fought through a scoreless first half, as both struggled to gain offensive traction. The Warriors started three possessions from within 60 yards of the Colonels' goalline, but couldn't convert and Wilkes (5-3 overall, 4-1 MAC) despite forcing two turnovers, could never get closer than the Lycoming 45-yard-line on offense.
Even the third quarter started slowly, with the teams trading possessions before Wilkes got a 33-yard completion from Tyler Bernsten to Jordan D'Emilio. Junior Ray Bierbach (Hunlock Creek, Pa./Northwest Area) made a touchdown-saving open-field tackle at the 24-yard-line, but the play set up a 40-yard field goal from Chris Horn.
The Warriors got a big play in response to that opening score, as sophomore Parker Showers (Aspers, Pa./Biglerville) ran the kickoff back to the 49-yard-line and a personal foul moved the ball to the Wilkes 36-yard-line. However, a sack pushed Lycoming out of field goal range and both teams again traded possessions, setting up the wild, 42-point fourth quarter.
After Lycoming turned the ball over on downs to start the fourth quarter, Wilkes struck paydirt on a 3-and-8 from the Wilkes 40-yard-line as Bertsen found Zach Tivald on a cross pattern and he turned the corner for a 60-yard score and a 10-0 lead with 12:56 left.
The Warriors responded with a swift and smooth drive, thanks to the reliable hands of Wagaman, as he made five catches on an eight-play drive, moving the ball 59 of the 82 yards the Warriors ground up on the drive before he caught the 23-yard touchdown pass on a stop-and-go pattern to the left corner of the end zone.
The Colonels responded with their own solid drive, moving 73 yards on nine plays capped by a 24-yard rush by Tivald. The Warriors got a stroke of luck, though, when the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving them the ball at the 40-yard line. Klinger quickly moved the team down the field, rushing for 32 yards and finding Wagaman for three catches, the last of which moved the ball to t he three-yard line. However, a pass over the middle was picked off at the goalline by Kevin Gerhart, who ran the ball 100-yards back for to give Wilkes a 24-7 lead.
"The things that won us games earlier this year, we're not doing right now," Clark said. "It's tough to win that way. At times, we threw the ball 15 times in a game and we threw it a lot more than that today. It's a combination of things."
Lycoming, with 2:43 left, did not give up, though, and thanks to a solid Showers kickoff return to the Wilkes 43-yard line and three 15-yard penalties on the Colonels during the drive, found the end zone in just 53 seconds, with Klinger crossing the line on a nine-yard scramble.
The resulting on-side kick was covered up by Wilkes and Auxence Wogou ran the final score in from 38 yards out.
Senior Josh Kleinfelter (Bellwood, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) ran the ball 14 times for 56 yards to lead the Warriors, as he became the school's career all-purpose yards leader with his first carry of the game. He finished the game with 4,337 career all-purpose yards.
Senior Josh Dixon (Fleetville, Pa./Lackawanna Trail) and freshman Warren Oliver (Beverly, N.J./Palmyra) each posted four catches. Showers posted 139 all-purpose yards in the game for the Warriors, notching 101 on kick returns and 22 rushing. Klinger also added 41 yards rushing on 11 attempts.
Freshman Dwight Hentz (Halifax, Pa./Halifax) led the Warriors with nine tackles and 0.5 for loss and Bierback added seven tackles and a breakup. Junior Chris Kish (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial), senior Chuck Bellitto (New Holland, Pa./Garden Spot) and sophomore Jamie Reitzi (Middletown, Pa./Middletown) each added seven tackles. Bellitto moved into fourth in school history with 261 career tackles, passing Bill Small (1988-91), who posted 256 in his career, during the game. Junior Anthony Marascio (Philadelphia, Pa./Father Judge) and sophomore Roger Jayne (Harvey's Lake, Pa./Lake Lehman) each added six tackles and half a sack.
Bernsten posted 205 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-27 passing for the Colonels. Tivald led the team with five catches for 98 yards and he also added 32 yards rushing. Wogou posted 87 yards on 14 carries and Jordan D'Emilio added four catches for 78 yards.
Tate Moore-Jacobs posted 13 tackles and Kevin Gerhart posted two tackles and two interceptions to lead the Colonels defense.
The Warriors return home to David Person Field to close out their home slate on Nov. 6, as they host Lebanon Valley in a Middle Atlantic Conference game. Senior Day at Lycoming is set for a 1 p.m. kick-off.