In most circumstances, it takes a quarterback quite some time to find a rapport with a wide receiver.
Wilkes has the exception.
Last week, in the Colonels victory over Misericordia, signal-caller Taylor Young and wideout David Claybrook found an instant connection with only a few days of practicing together. Both freshmen — Young from Bloomsburg and Claybrook from New Jersey — seem to already be on the same page heading into this afternoon’s game against Lebanon Valley at Schmidt Stadium as they hooked up six times last week for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns.
“They are two very good freshmen players that both have some strengths and their strengths compliment each other,” Colonels coach Frank Sheptock said.
Sure the newcomers are a big part of the team’s success, but those faces might not be familiar with the history of the series. The Colonels (2-2 overall, 1-2 MAC) and Flying Dutchmen (3-1, 2-1) have quite a tradition playing for the 42nd time in history. Some of the biggest games in Wilkes’ existence have been won against LebVal. One example was when the Colonels had a game-winning touchdown at the end of a game during the Rollie Schmidt coaching era. Another came when Sheptock surpassed Schmidt for most wins in school history with a huge fourth-quarter comeback three years ago.
“I’ve been in the league long enough where every game is a rivalry, but this is a game that has had the most close games and overtime games,” Sheptock added. “So there’s definitely been some traditional type feelings to it.”
Both teams are traditional offenses that will try to outphysical the other. While Wilkes is attempting to get more balanced with its new-found passing game, Lebanon Valley enters with an offense that is very balanced, averaging 168.3 rushing yards a game and 226.0 yards passing. The Dutchmen have many weapons that make defending their offense a challenge for any coach. Quarterback Brian Murphy already has more than 800 yards passing for LebVal, while five different players have scored a rushing touchdown this season.
Lebanon Valley (3-1, 2-1 MAC) at Wilkes (2-2, 1-2 MAC)
When: 1 p.m. today at Schmidt Stadium, Edwardsville
Last Week: Both teams are coming off victories. The Colonels knocked off Misericordia, 33-14, while the Dutchmen cruised to a 65-21 pasting of FDU-Florham.
Last meeting: Lebanon Valley won in 2012, 21-13 in Annville. Wilkes’ last win in the series came in 2010.
Wilkes player to watch: Tight end Alex George, who lined up in the Wildcat formation during last week’s win, only has offensive stats consisting of seven receptions for 64 yards this season. But in three games against the Dutchmen in his career, he’s posted outstanding numbers. He was quarterback for the Colonels the previous three times, combining to throw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns, and rushing for close to 200 yards and adding another four TDs.
Lebanon Valley player to watch: Junior outside linebacker Frank Gaffney, who is second in the MAC with six sacks, nine tackles for a loss to go along with 28 tackles and two pass break-ups.
Colonels’ team leaders: RB Pat Inguilli 254 yards, 2 TDs; QB Taylor Young 207 passing yards, 3 TDs; WR David Claybrook 12 receptions, 165 yards, 2 TDs; LB Tate Moore-Jacobs 55 tackles; three players with 2 sacks; five players with one interception.
Dutchmen team leaders: RB Austin Hartman 242 yards, 5 TDs; QB Brian Murphy 809 yards, 7 TDs, 1 interception; WR Jake Zeigler 16 receptions, 268 yards, 1 TD; four players with one interception; Frank Gaffney 28 tackles, 6 sacks.
Wilkes will win if: The chemistry between receiver David Claybrook and quarterback Taylor Young continues to progress, opening up the passing offense to complement the team’s rushing attack for the second week in a row.
Lebanon Valley will win if: Its offense, which leads the MAC in scoring offense, averaging 36.5 points per game, continues to click on all cylinders. In three conference contests, the Dutchmen are scoring 43.6 points per game.
What to know: The Colonels are celebrating homecoming this afternoon. A ceremony will be held prior to the game and at halftime recognizing the 1993 MAC championship team, and all former and current athletes on the MAC All-Century Teams.