Thursday Night Lights at Betzler Complex
Thursday Night Football has become a weekly occurrence in the National Football League to increase ratings. But why not take Thursday evening gridiron action to Division III football? On August 31, it happened right here in Wilkes-Barre.
For the first time in Monarchs football history, a Thursday night game took place at King’s College. In the middle of syllabus week and with the weather cooperating, a large crowd of 2,146 were on hand at McCarthy Stadium in Wilkes-Barre Township for the historic game.
The Monarchs faced off against the Moravian Greyhounds, seeking a win against the Bethlehem, Pa., school for the first time since Moravian left the Middle Atlantic Conference in 2006.
The program had hosted its first night game two years ago in front over 3,600 spectators.
In this game, the Monarchs began the scoring as senior quarterback and captain Zach Whitehead rushed for a two-yard score.
Only two quarterbacks at the Division III level had more rushing touchdowns last year than Whitehead. He did it again before halftime, this time from six yards out, and gave the home team a 14-6 lead going into halftime.
Meanwhile, the defense held Moravian’s new quarterback, freshman Doug Erney, off the scoreboard most of the first half, limiting his offense to just two field goals. The defense showed its experience and mental toughness in defending the home turf throughout the game’s first 30 minutes.
Then, a back-and-forth contest shaped the second half. Erney scored on a 34-yard touchdown run and then a two-point conversion on a pass to Aaron Brown to tie the game at 14. Mike Tumminello then kicked the first of three field goals that night, booting one from 36 yards. Erney could not be stopped, however, as he ran another touchdown, this time, from 58 yards, giving Moravian a 20-17 lead.
Whitehead then ran for his third touchdown of the day late in the third quarter from six yards, handing his Monarchs a 24-20 advantage entering the final quarter. He finished with 309 passing yards, 88 rushing yards, and three touchdowns on the ground.
After the Monarchs made a stop on an interception, Tumminello’s second field goal, from 27 yards out, gave the Monarchs a seven-point lead that did not last long. Moravian drove down the field and scored on a 26 yard pass from Erney to Nick Petros with five minutes to go in the game.
Whitehead then engineered a four-minute offense to set up another field goal from Tumminello. The latter’s 38-yard attempt was just enough to give the hosts a 30-27 lead. Tumminello later learned MAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after the game for his three field goals.
The defense followed this up by forcing a turnover on downs to hand the Monarchs a season-opening victory for the first time under head coach Jeff Knarr.