TODAY MATTERS by Bill Byham

Sport announcer and writer Bill Byham

Sport announcer and writer Bill Byham

The game ended. The scoreboard read 23-15 in bright orange lights fighting the late afternoon cloudy and rainy sky for the attention of all those who were in the stadium.

Lycoming football head coach Mike Clark, with his team taking a game ending kneel down as the clock ran out, hurried across the field to shake hands with coach Jim Monos of Lebanon Valley. Clark then headed down field away from the two muddied teams who were shaking hands after the tense, gut filled 60 minutes of D-3 college football in the Middle Atlantic Conference.

From the press box I was watching the body language of the first year head coach as he was all by himself. No one was chasing him with a celebration bucket of Gatorade. Just him. Just Mike Clark letting the emotion of all he had just been through show itself while he waited for his staff and team to finish their post game act before he could lead them off the field and into a warm and much drier field house.

He knew he, as head coach, was a leader of turning a whole year of negative into a positive.

He seemed to be squeezing himself. To realize that the improbable had become probable. He and everyone had just learned that Delaware Valley had upended Albright to make it a reality that Lycoming, the victor over Lebanon Valley, had won the conference championship and would receive, on Sunday, an invitation from the NCAA to participate in the D-3 post season tournament (Lycoming will play Hobart 8-1 in Geneva, NY).

The day had started with so many possibles it was confusing to even talk about them. One thing was sure. Lycoming had to beat the Dutchmen to even be considered. When the football day was over the conference had a 3-way tie at the top with Lycoming, Delaware Valley and Albright finishing conference play with identical 5-2 records in what had to be a record setting competitive year for the MAC. The Warriors, off the MAC tiebreaker rules, get the playoff bid because they had defeated both Albright and Delaware Valley during the season.

Later, in a corner of that madhouse locker room I spoke with a very proud Mike Clark whose eyes brimmed with pride of the Warrior football program.

“This is my seventh year of being with Lycoming football. Seven years and seven conference championships (four as a player, three as a coach) This is what coach Girardi started and we want it to continue. This thing that has happened is not mine. It is the program. It is these coaches and players. I am so happy for them.”

It was a Hollywood story that had come alive. The man who came north and into a bed of hostility started saying in January “we have the makings of a good football team. A team that we feel can be a winner and can go after the MAC championship.”

“Did you really believe what you were saying then.”

“We did. A lot of these kids were here. Had a year in the program. They just missed winning several games last season so they were ready to break out. We had put the staff together and you have to admit I have one of the very best as my defensive coordinator (Steve Wiser). Yea. We did believe even then we had a very good football team to coach.”

“What did you think after what happened last week?” (The favored Warriors were soundly defeated by the Kings Monarchs who were breaking out of a 7-game losing streak)

“There is a book entitled Today Matters. It is written by John Maxwell. I read it (I must admit that there was a time when I only read when I had to read.) Steve (Wiser) has read it. Maxwell just points out that you do what you can do on that day. We did not get the job done at Kings.”

Clark could have finished that thought by saying, “We did get the job done today.”

That is exactly what senior offensive lineman Pat Taylor told me just minutes before. “The offensive line had to play a lot better this week than we did last week if we were to win. We did get our job done (against the Number 1 MAC defense) and we did win.”

I then moved into the coaches room. I guess they had had moments of celebration and congratulating each other for all that had happened because it was like another day at the office when I walked in. Some had spent the afternoon outside in the very wet weather. Some had spent the afternoon up in the press box coaches location where plays and such are transmitted down to the sidelines.

I had gone there to interview Wiser. To get his thoughts but it turned into a pure post game talk session among mostly defensive people. Wiser was there and joined by Mike Weber, Steve Radocaj and Dennis Hammond – all contributors to what had been a major defensive effort.

But also in the room was first year quarterback coach, Bill Zwann, who had to be so very proud after QB Colin Dwyer had passed for 220 yards on a 16 for 31 day with NO interceptions. There was J. Drew DiGiacinto who works that Pat Taylor offensive line along with Ken Tallman but is also responsible for special teams play. He was pumped because senior kicker Scott Erikson had come off big with a 3 for 3 crucial field goal day (28-24-23 yards) and two points after for a 12 point day. He had also made an in game decision that added to the win. He brought out sophomore Sean Teufel to handle the needed successful kickoff chores on that soggy turf.

It was a day to be remembered. A season to be remembered. There is more to come.

THAT’S 30

(read more sports on thats30.com)

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