It’s interesting how the weather can act as an omen to what you are about to see. The dark clouds of the overcast sky that hung over eastern Lycoming county almost perfectly foreshadowed the Middle Atlantic Conference game that was about to unfold between the No. 23 Lycoming Warriors and our Monarchs.

To make a long story short: the Monarchs fell to Lycoming in a 28-13 bout that showcased an improved Monarch team from a week ago, but surely not one that was improved enough to hang around with a nationally ranked Division III perennial powerhouse.

King’s (0-3) won the toss but elected to defer to the half, giving the ball to a dangerous offense that is typically overshadowed by stout defensive play that ranks in the nation’s top 10 in terms of points per game allowed (8.67). On their first drive, however, the Warriors looked vulnerable. Senior wideout Josh Sibel almost reeled in a spectacular one handed grab, but could not hold on to give Lycoming the first down, forcing them to punt the ball away.

After a 6- play, 12 yard first drive for the Monarchs that ended at their own 33 yard line. The confidence went flying out the window when punter Eric Haenggi mishandled the snap and gave the Warriors unbeatable field position at the Monarch 22 yard line. Craig Needhammer capped off the ensuing drive with a 5 yard scamper to put the Warriors up 7-0 with 7:42 remaining in the opening period.

The Monarchs ended up knocking on Lycoming’s door during the next offensive series, but a false start penalty on the Monarchs offensive line backed the Monarchs up 5 yard to the Warriors 10 yard line. Their momentum was ruined after a missed chip shot from 29 yards out, killing their momentum.

Things got exciting to start the second quarter. On the kickoff after Lyco’s second touchdown, when a reverse handoff from Justin Burke to Dan Kempa went for 76 yards, all the way down to the Warrior 11 yard line, leading to Pat Robinson’s 3 yard touchdown run giving the Monarchs a manageable one possession deficit to work with.

After Lycoming scored on their next drive, the score stood at 21-10 in Lyco’s favor. The Monarchs needed to score on their opening drive in the second half, whether it be a field goal or a touchdown, something had to be done, and fast.

After Tyler Hartranft hooked up with wide out Antoine Basquait for 16 yards on a big third down, the Monarchs were in a perfect position to do just that. However, the drive came to an end when a screen pass opportunity to Kyle McGrath proved to be unfruitful. Haenggi’s punt bounced out the back of the end zone for a touchback, and it did not faze Tyler Jenny and his boys from the block.

The ensuing 8- play, 80-yard drive was capped off by a touchdown by Needhammer, who tied a school record with his 36thscore of his career, giving the Warriors a 28-10 three-possession lead.

Though it did not seem like the Monarchs gave up in any particular way, it did seem as though their focus lessened from that point onward. All the Monarchs were able to squeeze out from that point on was a 29 yard field goal on their first drive of the fourth quarter. King’s was held to 72 yards of total offense in the second half, proving that the point that when Lycoming’s defense needed to, they could shut down an offense at the drop of a hat.

After Tyler Jenny took a knee for the final play of the game, it was clear to pretty much everyone in attendance that the better team had won. As I said before, the Monarchs are certainly a better team that they were just a week ago. They were at least able to stick around with a nationally ranked team and even found the endzone once through the legs of Pat Robinson.

That is not to say that the Monarchs do not have a lot to work on. For instance, the leading rusher for King’s was not one of the running backs or even a receiver, but it was Tyler Hartranft. He finished the day with 48 rushing yards. Kyle McGrath was second on the team, totaling a meager 3 yards on 9 total carries.

The lone bright spot came from the performance of senior receiver Dan Kempa, who notched 10 receptions for 131 yards, good for 13.1 yard per reception. With his 10 receptions, Kempa tied a career high and was also the second most in one game in Monarch football history.

Other than that, the penalties that doomed the Monarchs a week ago did similar damage this time around. King’s racked up 9 penalties for 103 yards, but this was somewhat offset by Lycoming committing 7 penalties for only 50 yards. These penalties kept crucial possessions alive for the Monarch’s, including one in the third quarter that had the Monarchs scored, it would have made it an 11 point game, which is more than manageable in a half’s worth of football.

Next week, the Monarchs take on the Misericordia Cougars on homecoming weekend. Though the Monarchs have won both of the previous matchups (the last of which ended in a 5OT thriller), the Cougars are looking to prove that they are a team to not be taken lightly. They picked up their first win of the season Saturday, defeating FDU-Florham by a score of 35-0.

It is clear that they are a different team than years past, and they will look to spoil the Monarchs homecoming celebration just as we did to them last season. The game will be played on Saturday, September 27 at McCarthy Stadium at 1 p.m.

Did I like that way the Monarchs looked compared to last week against Stevenson? Absolutely. Do I think they can beat Misericordia? Again, absolutely. What it all comes down to is the limiting of penalties and the sharpening of the skills. King’s is a talented team that has loads of potential, both on the field as athletes and in the playbook.

They need to execute, and usually by the third week most teams have this at least somewhat figured out. This was not the case on Saturday, and if King’s does not clean this up in a hurry, they will find themselves in an 0-4 hole, leaving them totally out of the playoff conversation.

It is a wide open conference this year, and to me, it looks like the Cougars are on a mission to prove that point. See you on Saturday.

From the pressbox,

K.H.