Stevenson has already beaten one of two teams that shared last year’s Middle Atlantic Conference title and will go for the sweep with a visit to Lycoming on Saturday.
The Mustangs (4-0, 3-0 in the league) defeated Lebanon Valley, 20-14, two weeks ago, but coach Ed Hottle admitted that tangling with the Warriors, who have won 15 league championships, is the litmus test of the season.
“They’re the big dog in the conference,” Hottle said Wednesday. “They’re the defending conference champion, and they’re the team we aspire to be. They’re perennially very good in the conference, they’re well-coached, they’re big and physical, they don’t make mistakes. They’re a good, good football team.”
Returning 16 of 22 starters on offense and defense, Lycoming (4-0, 3-0) was picked to finish first in the conference’s preseason poll after collecting five of 10 first-place votes. The Warriors recently earned points in the latest American Football Coaches Association poll, sitting just two spots outside of the No. 25 ranking.
Asked if an upset would send a message, Hottle replied, “If we were to win it, I think so, but I think we’re a long way from calling it a statement game yet. It would be nice to win, and it would put us where we would like to be in Week 5, but we try to approach every game like it is its own individual deal, and they’re a good football team. In the preseason they were [No.] 1 in the conference, and we were [No.] 7. So that’s what people think, and I guess we’re going to go and sort it all out on Saturday.”
Hottle didn’t try to downplay the hype between two of the three best teams in the MAC (Widener is also 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the league), but said that the coaches and players are doing their best to tune out any distractions.
“It’s certainly something that I know they’re aware of and we’re aware of,” he said. “Does it raise the stakes for us? I don’t know that it does just simply because every game is different and the expectations are the same. We prepare to win a football game, and we better go up there and play mistake-free football because if we make a handful of mistakes, they’re liable to cost us the football game. But we’re aware of who they are. We’ve played tough against them in the past, and I would expect us to do the same this week and hopefully, we can go up there and get it into the fourth quarter with a chance to win it.”