Cougars Conclude Regular Season With Loss
DALLAS — With wind gusting through Mangelsdorf Field, and snow showers swirling around, Mark Ross was asked about his experience coaching Misericordia in this historic 2018 season.
Even after a tough 21-14 loss to Lycoming Saturday – one where a Cougar win could have meant a co-championship or outright title in the MAC, the seventh-year head coach never skipped a beat.
“Every week, I was thrilled for these guys,” Ross said. “But when you keep winning, it doesn’t make it any easier. The focus as a coach was making sure you did everything to make sure they were ready. You don’t want to lose a game because you feel that you didn’t do a good job. I don’t feel that way today. Lycoming made some plays they had to make.”
In the end, it was just too many mistakes on a winter-like afternoon in the Back Mountain as Misericordia turned the ball over four times and were held scoreless in the second half.
Yet, there were plenty of positives as the 21 seniors honored walked off the field.
Misercordia, in its prior six seasons, only found the win column five times. In 2018, the Cougars strung together eight straight wins after a Week 1 setback to the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
And it seems all but certain Misericordia will get a spot in the annual Centennial-MAC Bowl Series next week.
“It’s disappointing because we had a chance to win a championship or at least share one, but that last step is always the hardest to take,” Ross said. “I’m not going to hang my head for the season that we put together. I’m proud of these guys.”
With the way Saturday started, it seemed like Misericordia (8-2, 7-1 MAC) was going to walk out with at least a co-championship in the MAC.
Lycoming fumbled on the first play from scrimmage as Cougar senior Joe Grasso jumped on the ball, setting his team up deep inside Warrior territory. They only needed five plays to score as quarterback Aaron Brady, starting in place of injured Brady Williams, found Isiah Williams in the middle of the end zone for a 7-0 lead not even four minutes in.
It could have been even larger as Garrett Murray picked off Lycoming’s Elijah Shemory on the Warriors’ next offensive series. But Brady give the ball right back on the very next play with an interception of his own.
“That’s a good team,” Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. “Listen, they aren’t the most athletic team in the league. They aren’t as athletic as Del Val or Stevenson, but neither are we. The thing that is so admirable about Misericordia is they had the chance to play for a championship. I can’t overstate how proud that program should be. I’ve been a head coach for 11 years, and I’ve never won eight straight games. It’s a remarkable job by Mark and his boys.”
Lycoming (5-5, 4-4 MAC) settled down from that point.
Clark’s team strung together an 11-play, 66-yard possession that chewed nearly six minutes off the clock and ended on a short 2-yard TD burst by Wyoming Area grad Justin Joseph knotting the game at 7.
The Warriors that won the battle of the second quarter as Lycoming got the game-winning score six seconds before halftime. Taking advantage of a short kickoff combined with a Misericordia personal foul penalty, the Lycoming County boys needed eight plays to cover the 45 yards — capped off when Shemory connected with Brock Zollicoffer for a 10-yard score and 21-14 lead at halftime.
With wind gusts in the high 20s most of the second half, neither offense really got going. The final 30 minutes featured five punts, four interceptions and two series stopped on downs.
The Cougars had two golden chances to knot the game at 21 in the fourth quarter – but both times were stopped inside Lycoming territory.
The final play, a fourth-and-10 from the Lycoming 28, almost tied the game but Brady’s pass was just past the outstretched arms of Klayton Kelly in the end zone.
“Mark and his team are extremely resilient, and we knew they’ve come back to win multiple times this year,” Clark said. “We wanted them to deal with the wind in the fourth quarter, and we felt good about our defense. We just had to trust our kids. I’m proud of them for finishing the game.”