Lackawanna College Clinches Perfect Season
Over the final 20 minutes of the 14th El Toro Bowl on Saturday, Lackawanna College asked its defense to come up with big stops.
Each time, the unit responded.
Led by Penn State commit Jaquan Brisker, the Falcons held off Arizona Western College, 17-10, at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Yuma, Arizona.
Lackawanna, ranked No. 6 in NJCAA, finished 11-0 for the first time in program history; the 2006 team was 10-0. The Falcons are one of just two unbeaten teams in junior college football this season; top-ranked East Mississippi Community College (12-0) is the other.
Also, it is the fourth bowl victory in 11 tries for Lackawanna.
“It was just a hard-fought, great football game,” Lackawanna coach Mark Duda said in a phone interview. “We knew coming in it was going to be a defensive battle. Both defenses are outstanding.
“Our kids just played so hard. I’m proud of their effort.”
Brisker finished with seven tackles and one sack. He also deflected a pass that led to an interception and had the initial pressure on Arizona Western quarterback Logan Byrd that helped produce the game-sealing interception. He was chosen as Lackawanna’s Defensive Player of the Game.
“Brisker is the best defensive player in the United States. Period,” Duda said. “He’s the best defensive player I’ve ever coached. Penn State’s lucky to have him because that son of a gun is as good as it gets.”
Sylvanus Waibogha led Lackawanna with nine tackles and Andre Blackett added eight and an
Offensively, the Falcons did just enough damage in the first half, when quarterback Shane McLaughlin threw a pair of touchdown passes.
Lackawanna’s special teams helped set up its first score.
Ja’yir Brown tackled punter Matthan Hatchie following a high snap at the Arizona Western 30. Three plays later, McLaughlin hit Nasir Hooker on a perfectly executed screen pass for a 26-yard touchdown. Isaiah Howard’s kick made it 7-0 with 3:13 left in the first quarter.
Arizona Western (6-5), ranked No. 19, drove to the Lackawanna 26 on the ensuing possession, but an incomplete pass turned the ball over on downs.
Three plays later, the Falcons struck again. McLaughlin hit Javon Turner on a seam route. Turner split two Matadors defenders and raced 66 yards for the touchdown. Howard’s kick made it 14-0 with 11:18 left in the second quarter.
Turner was selected as Lackawanna’s Offensive Player of the Game.
An interception deep in Lackawanna territory by Tobias Gilliam gave Arizona Western a chance to get back into the game.
However, Lackawanna’s defense held and the Matadors settled for Alec Fonseca’s 30-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 14-3.
On the Matadors’ next possession, Brisker came on a blitz and deflected Byrd’s pass attempt. The ball settled into the arms of Blackett.
That led to Howard’s 32-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to give Lackawanna a 17-3 halftime lead.
“We knew at the half those guys weren’t going to roll over,” Duda said. “They were going to roll back.”
To open the third quarter, Lackawanna totaled 28 yards and two first downs on its first three plays. Its next 14 plays, however, netted just six yards.
“They could man-cover so well and put four people in the box. That caused us to have a hard time,” Duda said. “We missed a couple of opportunities, too. Everything was happening a lot faster. That speed-up caused some problems to happen.”
Jadon Hayes’ 19-yard touchdown run with 5:31 left in the third quarter capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive that consumed seven minutes and pulled the Matadors within 17-10.
With 8:18 left in the fourth quarter, Arizona Western took over at its 43. It drove to the Lackawanna 25, converting a fourth-and-1 along the way on a four-yard keeper by Byrd.
Facing fourth-and-5, Byrd dropped back to pass, but was pressured by Brisker. Tennessee commit Savion Williams wrapped up Byrd, forcing him to heave a desperation pass. The ball floated into the arms of the Falcons’ Robert Kennedy with 2:21 to play.
When Marques DeShields ran 29 yards on third down, it sealed the victory — and the perfect season.
“It’s been our goal for a long time to go 11-0,” Duda said. “It’s the best feeling. The players and (assistant) coaches really earned it, they worked their tails off. To play this well all the way through the season is very difficult. There’s a whole bunch of good football teams along the way that these guys beat.”
Contact the writer:
570-348-9100 ext. 5109;
@swalshTT on Twitter
Lackawanna 7 10 0 0 — 17
Arizona Western 0 3 7 0 — 10
LACK - Hooker 26 pass from McLaughlin (Howard kick). 3:13
LACK- Turner 67 pass from McLaughlin (Howard kick). 11:18
AW - Fonseca 30 FG. 6:51
LACK- Howard 32 FG. :00
AW - Hayes 18 run. (Fonseca kick). 5:31
First Downs 7 14
Rushing-Att-Yards 27-99 48-208
Comp-Att-Int 7-17-1 6-15-2
Passing Yards 115 61
Total Yards 214 269
Punts-Average 5-32.6 2-35.5
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 5-49 7-56
Rushing: LACK – DeShields 6-77; Brown 5-19; Schumacher 6-10; Jackson 5-8; Hooker 1-5; Bell 1-1; Dreher 1-minus 2; McLaughlin 3-minus 19. AW – Hayes 27-115, 1 TD; Graham 9-62; Byrd 11-47; Oliver 1-3; Hatchie 1-minus 19.
Passing: LACK – McLaughlin 7-16-1, 115, 2 TDs; Schumacher 0-1-0, 0. AW – Byrd 6-15-2, 61.
Receiving: LACK – Dreher 4-12; Turner 1-67, 1 TD; Hooker 1-26, 1 TD; Stanley 1-10. AW– Johnson 3-34; Wallace 2-12; King Jr. 1-15.
LACKAWANNA BOWL HISTORY 1994: Midwest Bowl
College of DuPage (L, 28-0)
1995: Golden Isle Bowl
Georgia Military (L, 48-15)
1997: Dixie Rotary Bowl
Dixie State (L, 76-21)
2000: Golden Isle Bowl
Middle Georgia (L, 35-7)
2001: Real Dairy Bowl
Ricks College (L, 49-21)
2006: Valley of the Sun Bowl
Glendale (W, 17-16)
2008: North Star Bowl
Rochester CTC (L, 19-13)
2010: Graphic Edge Bowl
Ellsworth (W, 34-20)
2011: Salt City Bowl
Hutchison (L, 70-20)
2016: Valley of the Sun Bowl
Mesa (L, 48-42, OT)
2018: El Toro Bowl
Arizona Western (W, 17-10)
EL TORO BOWL HISTORY
1968 — Arizona Western 27, Lees-McRae (NC), 6
1969 — Tyler (TX) 30, Centerville (IA) 0 1970 — Arizona Western 38, Nassau CC 18
1971 — Arizona Western 28, Ellsworth (IA) 12
1972 — Arizona Western 36, Fort Scott 8 1973 — Mesa 10, Iowa Central 6
2011 — East Mississippi 55, Arizona Western 47
2012 — Arizona Western 43, Nassau CC 37 2013 — New Mexico Military 32, Arizona Western 16
2014 — Arizona Western 38, Central Lakes (MN) 14
2015 — Arizona Western 14, DuPage (IL) 5 2016 — Garden City 25, Arizona Western 22 2017 — Snow (UT) 43, Blinn (TX) 41
2018 — Lackawanna 17, Arizona Western 10