The final score of Stevenson’s 31-10 loss to Middle Atlantic Conference rival Lycoming on Saturday might suggest a rout. But coach Ed Hottle said the Mustangs had a chance to flip the score in their favor.
“I would say it was a missed opportunity,” he said Wednesday morning. “I don’t want to take anything away from them. They’re a very good football team. We would’ve had to play really well to get a 'W' there. But again, I think the opportunity was there.”
Hottle was referring to an advantageous first quarter that practically begged Stevenson (4-1 overall and 3-1 in the league) to put the Warriors in a hole.
With the score tied at 7-7 in the first quarter and the offense beginning a drive at Lycoming’s 29-yard line courtesy of a sack and forced fumble by junior linebacker Resheed Lashley (Hammond) that was recovered by senior defensive lineman Scott Lange, the Mustangs marched to the 1 where they had four downs to get into the end zone.
But the Warriors (5-0, 4-0) denied Stevenson each time, and that failure was compounded on the Mustangs’ ensuing offensive series when sophomore kicker Tim Sternfeld’s 47-yard field-goal attempt strayed wide left.
So instead of extending the lead to 17-7, Stevenson and Lycoming were still deadlocked at the beginning of the second quarter, which saw the Warriors score all 14 of the period’s points and put the game out of reach.
“I think frustrating is probably the biggest thing that was definitely noticeable,” Hottle said. “I was frustrated and they were frustrated. I think we had our opportunities to take control early, and we kind of felt like we missed some pretty big opportunities to kind of jump on them quick. And then we just missed. I think at times, we were unable to get some of the things done that we wanted to get done, and I think that was a little frustrating for myself, the staff and the players as well. I think we realized on a whole, we didn’t play particularly well on Saturday.”
Saturday’s contest was the first time that the Mustangs had earned votes in last week’s American Football Coaches Association’s Division III poll. Hottle said it was apparent that the national attention weighed more heavily on his team than it did on Lycoming, which moved up to No. 23 in the latest poll.
“We’ve got to learn to deal with the emotion of being in a big ballgame, and to this point in our existence, there hadn’t been a lot of big ballgames,” Hottle said. “For us, every game is a big game. We look at every game the same way, but when you look at nationally a big game, polls are polls, but the kids see that and see that as a national opportunity, and we have not been in that position before. I think you have to learn to deal with the emotion of that and really focus on the football. I think at times on Saturday, we were pretty tight, and we were afraid to make the big mistakes and not play as fast as we had been.”