2023 Lycoming vs Susquehanna

The First-Ever Landmark Title Is On The Line: Lycoming Vs Susquehanna

The First-Ever Landmark Title Is On The Line: Lycoming Vs Susquehanna

Susquehanna will face Lycoming in the annual Stagg Hat Game this weekend, and the winner will receive the first-ever Landmark Football Conference title.

Nov 9, 2023 by Briar Napier

Seven teams coming into this year entered the great unknown of the first-ever Landmark Conference football season.

After 10 weeks of play, only two are left standing holding a chance to take the inaugural Landmark championship — and they happen to be among the biggest rivals in the entire league.

Susquehanna and Lycoming will tussle in the annual Stagg Hat Game this weekend in one of the most important iterations of the rivalry ever: the winner will receive the first-ever Landmark title and an all-important automatic bid to the playoffs as the conference’s representative.

How’s that for high stakes?

A historic showdown in a historic rivalry may have a historic game in store. All that’s left is to tune in Saturday afternoon and watch the show unfold and the tension rise.

Here’s a look at what to watch out for as No. 10 Susquehanna hosts Lycoming this weekend, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. (ET) Saturday on FloFootball:

All the Marbles

The stakes in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania this weekend are as clear as can be — the winner of Saturday’s game between Susquehanna and Lycoming will be crowned the inaugural Landmark Conference football champion and earn the league automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs to begin later this month. 

How we got here, in terms of the River Hawks and Warriors being the two teams squaring off to decide who earns those honors, is an interesting story. SU entered the regular season as the favorite to take the conference title and has shown few signs so far this year of not being up to the task. The No. 10-ranked team in the country according to the most recent D3football.com Top 25, the River Hawks are 9-0 and have rolled through their five Landmark games with relative ease, winning all by multiple touchdowns as they aim for their second consecutive perfect regular season. Under coach Tom Perkovich, Susquehanna has become a powerhouse in the East Region and will be the favorite (especially at home) to topple Lycoming and be the Landmark’s first-ever football champion.

Meanwhile, at Lycoming, the Warriors were projected to be a middle-of-the-pack team (picked to finish fourth in the league’s preseason poll). Still, those plans appeared early on to be far-fetched when they lost their first five games, including their Landmark opener against Wilkes. Lycoming has turned a corner over the past month, however, winning four straight and being the only team remaining still with a chance to snatch the Landmark title from Susquehanna, as remarkable as that sounds after its awful start to the year. 

That scenario goes like this: If the Warriors stun the River Hawks, the two teams would be even on league-leading 5-1 conference records, but Lycoming would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker and, therefore, be crowned the Landmark champion. The Warriors haven’t made the D-III playoffs since 2008, but shocking Susquehanna and taking the Landmark away from the hands of a rival would be an incredible way to return to the party.

Perfection Push

As mentioned previously, Susquehanna is pushing for its second straight undefeated regular season as it’s on a 20-game regular season winning streak overall dating back to 2021, which is already a school record. 

So, what’s been clicking on the gridiron for the River Hawks? Short answer: everything. 

SU’s league-best offense (40.3 points per game) prefers to do much of its damage on the ground, averaging 233.9 rushing yards per game with 30 touchdowns via the rushing attack alone; by comparison, if you removed every other touchdown that Susquehanna has scored this year and limited it to just its running scores, the River Hawks would still be tied for fifth in the league in touchdowns scored with Catholic. 

Leading rusher Tommy Grabowski (853 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) could hit the 1,000 yards mark with a huge game against Lycoming, and while quarterback Josh Ehrlich (1,368 passing yards, 70% completion percentage) isn’t turned loose through the air very often, he does limit his mistakes (four interceptions in 183 attempts) when his number is called and is quite nimble with his feet, too, tallying 682 rushing yards on the year to date to be second on the squad behind Grabowski. 

As for the defense, no one in the Landmark has picked up more sacks than the River Hawks’ 28 on the season, and SU is trained to make jarring hits and create chaos through fumbles. Only four players in the Landmark have forced more than one fumble this season, and Susquehanna has three of them including the league leader in the category with three in senior linebacker Drew Robinson. Now among the top 10 squads in America rankings-wise, SU is expecting nothing less than a league title, home playoff game, and — what it hopes to be — a deep playoff run. Two of those aspirations can be achieved for near-certain with a win over Lycoming. 

Lycoming’s Moment?

Longtime D-III football fans will remember when Lycoming was a force to be reckoned with on a national stage in the division. In both 1990 and 1997, the Warriors made the national championship game under legendary Hall of Fame coach Frank Girard, one of D-III’s all-time wins leaders. 

Since his retirement in 2007, Lycoming football hasn’t found similar levels of success as it’s currently amid a 15-year playoff drought. Saturday is the program’s best chance in years to begin to restore some of that tradition. 

Coach Mike Clark, an alum and former player under Girardi, has been the man in charge since Girardi’s departure, and it may not be overstating it to say that an upset victory over Susquehanna in the annual Stagg Hat Game would be one of the biggest of his coaching career. Lycoming hasn’t defeated the River Hawks since 2016 as it’s amid a five-game losing streak to its rival, and though a postseason berth is already secured for certain — if they lose this weekend, the Warriors will play later this month in one of two Chesapeake Classic Bowl Series games against a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference — the notoriety and prestige of the playoffs should be what the Warriors are shooting for. 

Pulling off the feat is much easier said than done against an opponent who hasn’t known what it’s like to lose a regular season game in over two full calendar years, but there are some things in Lycoming’s favor. The Warriors have the most productive secondary in the Landmark with a league-leading 12 interceptions, for instance, and have an offensive line that has allowed just 15 sacks all season to combat Susquehanna’s ferocious pass rush. Also, junior quarterback Will Fish has looked much-improved since getting into the thick of Landmark play as he’s now gone three games without an interception to go with five consecutive multi-touchdown performances through the air, including five scores thrown against Wilkes in October. 

Lycoming is the rest of the Landmark’s final hope to unceremoniously end Susquehanna’s dreams for a perfect conference title, and for those simply rooting for chaos, the Warriors are hoping things go haywire in their favor.