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Clarion U. Hosts Mercyhurst in Home Finale Saturday

Thursday, November 7, 2019 @ 12:11 AM

Posted by Chris Rossetti

_mcgriff01CLARION, Pa. – The Clarion Golden Eagles will send off their seniors in the final home game of their career when they host the Mercyhurst Lakers at Memorial Stadium.

(Photo courtesy of Clarion University Athletics)

Kickoff is scheduled for 12:06 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9.

The Golden Eagles are 3-6 overall and 1-5 PSAC West while Mercyhurst checks in at 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the PSAC West.

Mike Kalinowski and Joe Lodanosky will have the radio call for the game on 96.3 WKQW-FM an hour before kickoff.
This week’s game will be televised by PA Sports Fever. For a full list of stations carrying the game, click here. The game will also stream via ESPN3.

Scouting The Lakers

The Lakers were predicted to finish fourth in the PSAC West division and they currently sit just one game out of that spot, owning a 4-5 overall record and a 2-4 mark in PSAC West action. They posted wins against Edinboro and Gannon, with the latter coming in a 28-7 decision last week. Neither the Lakers nor the Golden Knights scored in the first half of last week’s game, but Clay Waldron broke things open with an 80-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter and things got rolling from there.

Mercyhurst relies heavily on running back Garrett Owens, who is second in the conference with 168 rushing attempts. He leads the PSAC with 12 total rushing touchdowns, and he also leads the Lakers with 28 receptions this season. Quarterback Doug Altavilla returns in 2019 and has 13 touchdown passes compared to 14 interceptions. Mercyhurst has two players with more than 10 total tackles for loss – Ayron Thompson Jr. (11.0) and Corbin Kessler (10.0). The rush defense has been exceptional, with the Lakers allowing an average of just 106.0 yards per game on the ground.

Series History

This will be the 12th meeting between the Golden Eagles and the Lakers, with Mercyhurst owning a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series with Clarion. The Lakers have won each of the last two meetings, a 21-18 decision at Memorial Stadium in 2017 and a 14-7 defensive battle in 2018. The last Clarion win in the series was a shootout in Erie, with the Golden Eagles rallying from a 28-14 second-half deficit to beat the Lakers 35-34.

Last year’s game saw both teams do all of their scoring in the first half as Mercyhurst held on for a 14-7 win over Clarion. Tanner Jones had the lone score of the day for the Golden Eagles, giving them a 7-0 lead on their first drive of the game with a three-yard rushing touchdown. Garrett Owens tied the score with his own rushing touchdown – part of a 112-yard day on the ground – and Clay Waldron had what was ultimately the game-winning touchdown reception in the second quarter. Both defenses played well, with Clarion holding Mercyhurst to just 242 total yards.

Last Week

The Golden Eagle football team put on a late rally to try and come back from a halftime deficit, but Clarion was unable to make up the entirety of the lost ground in falling 27-20 to Edinboro at Sox Harrison Stadium on Saturday.

Mylique McGriff made his return to the field after missing three weeks due to injury, and the junior running back had an immediate impact on the Clarion offense with 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He and James Metzgar provided all of the scoring for the Golden Eagles on Saturday, with the latter going 2-of-2 on field-goal attempts and making both of his extra-point tries. Metzgar improved to 7-of-11 on the season and needs just three more makes to crack the top-five in school history, while McGriff passed Robert Walker and Delrece Williams for seventh on the all-time rushing list at Clarion.

The Clarion defense forced three turnovers against the Fighting Scots, with Corey Wells intercepting his team-leading third pass of the season, and Dante Paul and Sam Fareri each recovering fumbles. Fareri’s recovery came on a great special teams play, pulling in a loose ball that was not fielded cleanly on a punt return, while Paul’s recovery came when Kareem Hamdan punched the ball loose from CJ Reyes-Diggs in the fourth quarter. The latter set up a field goal make from Metzgar and cut the Edinboro lead to 27-20 with more than 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

Grand Return

Mylique McGriff returned to the lineup on Nov. 2 after missing the previous three weeks to injury, posting 80 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against Edinboro. The junior running back jumped back to the top of the list of rushers in the PSAC in 2019, averaging 114.5 rushing yards per game in his six games of action. Only one other rusher, Chantz Swartz of Lock Haven, is averaging better than 100 yards per game on the ground.

As mentioned before, McGriff moved into seventh place on the all-time rushing list at Clarion with 2,178 rushing yards. Were he to match his season-to-date average for rushing yards, there are several more he could catch before the end of the year – Ron DeJidas (2,286), Alfonso Hoggard (2,350) and Eddie Emmanuel (2,371) are all within striking distance.

Mylique McGriff – Longest Career Rushes
1. 79 yards, at Gannon – 11/4/17
2. 60 yards, at Slippery Rock – 10/28/17
3. 56 yards, at Shippensburg – 9/7/19
4. 55 yards, vs. California (Pa.) – 10/6/18
5. 53 yards, vs. Shippensburg – 9/1/18
6. 51 yards, at Slippery Rock – 10/28/17

Fall on the Ball

Through nine weeks Clarion ranks as one of the top teams not just in the PSAC but in the nation in recovered fumbles. With recoveries by Sam Fareri and Dante Paul against Edinboro on Nov. 2, the Golden Eagles rank first in the PSAC and sixth in the nation with 11 fumble recoveries. Paul and Chris Gildea are tied for the team lead with two fumbles recovered each, a number that also leads the PSAC.

Wells On His Way

Cornerback Corey Wells moved to within one interception of the conference lead last week, picking off a pass against Edinboro for his third recorded of the season. That topped his previous career-high of two, set a season ago.

Bringing the Big Boot

James Metzgar ranked second in the PSAC in field-goal percentage last year, making 10 of his 13 kicks for a 76.9 percent mark from long. His 10 makes ranked behind just IUP’s Dillon Sarka and Slippery Rock’s Jake Chapla. While not statistically the most proficient kicker in Clarion history ­– that would be Bill May, he of the program-record 49 makes from 1977-80 – another three conversions from Metzgar would give him 28 career field goals, good enough for fourth in program history. Metzgar has been on a roll over the last four games, making six of his last seven field-goal attempts with a long make of 37 yards. His longest field goal this year was a 42-yarder against Shepherd on Sept. 21.

Tops for Tight Ends

Jake Whitenight came to Clarion as an offensive lineman but has made the move to tight end, and in just nine games has already earned an unexpected distinction. Whitenight caught his second touchdown pass of the year on Oct. 12 against Cal U, making him the first Golden Eagle tight end to catch two scores in a season in five years. The last to do it was Zach Deitrick, who did it in 2014.

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