ANNVILLE — It is likely no surprise that Franklin & Marshall sophomore safety Thomas Downs, a Baltimorean, would like the NFL’s Ravens.
Nor that being a defensive back, he might be partial to the Ravens Hall-of-Fame safety Ed Reed.
Saturday afternoon, under sun-splashed skies at Lebanon Valley’s Arnold Field, Downs channeled his inner Reed with two interceptions and the Diplomats kicked off the 2019 season on the right foot, defeating the Flying Dutchmen 35-20 in a non-conference, season opener.
Reed’s picks, at the LVC 46- and 41-yard lines, set up the Diplomats first two touchdowns and the visitors were never headed after that.
“I’m a Ravens fan and I’m watching a whole lot of Ed Reed,” Downs said, “so it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Brown egg’s in the air. I’m going to go get it.”
Off Down’s first interception the Diplomats went 41 yards in four plays, keyed by Keshon Farmer’s 33-yard touchdown burst.
Two plays later LVC quarterback Kody Kegarise’s pass to Tyler Melhorn was tipped by Melhorn, the ball coming to Downs at the 41. He returned it to the 33.
Joe Hartley-Vittoria was in the endzone in two plays, a 26-yard burst and 7-yard scamper off left tackle. Jack Rodenberger’s second of five PAT conversions gave the Diplomats a 14-7 lead just over nine minutes into the game.
Downs’ picks were two of three pilfered by the Diplomat secondary — Marlen Fenstermacher hawking the third at the LVC 18 early in the third quarter.
“It was a little unathletic of a play,” said the senior captain, who fell to the turf as he secured the ball. “It gave our offense a chance, and that’s a good feeling.”
As with the earlier interceptions, this also led to an F&M score, Farmer covering the 18 yards in three try, crossing in from a yard out. Farmer (12-86) would finish with three touchdowns.
On their second offensive snap the Dutchmen served notice they came to play .
After the Diplomats had gone three-and-out, fifth-year senior Hunter Wilson ripped off tackle 85 yards to the endzone.
The West Perry grad was a load all afternoon, finishing with 169 yards and a score on 21 carries and pulling in a 39-yard TD pass from Kegarise for LVC’s final score of the afternoon.
Kegarise was 12 of 28 for 149 yards. In addition to sacking him twice, the Diplomats harried and hurried him all game long.
“When you look out there, on defense we had twelve sophomores and freshmen out there,” said Dips coach John Troxell.
“We’re getting them in a game situation and we’re getting a chance to coach them off of it.”
Down 14-7, the Dutchmen put together a 12-play 73-yard drive, almost exclusively on the ground, capped by Kegarise pushing in from a yard out behind the block of center George Thompson. The PAT kick failed.
Two possession later the Dips fashioned their own long march, taking nearly six minutes off the clock to go 56 yards in 12 plays, quarterback Garrett Perschy with the 1-yard plunge.
After Fenstermacher’s interception, and the Diplomats quick score, the Dutchmen took advantage of an interception of Perschy in the next series, on an underthrown ball, finding paydirt on Wilson’s score on a wheel route.
Nonplused, Perschy (10-17-2, 83 yards) led the offense 75 yards in 11 plays, Farmer taking a sweep left from ten yards out and diving into the endzone to cap the scoring.
Despite Wilson’s heroics, the Diplomats’ backfield-by-committee of Hartley-Vittoria (18-116), Farmer and Eric Harris (7-34) out rushed the Dutchmen 238-192.
“What can you say about our backs?” Troxell asked. “And the guys up front, helping us churn out yards and clock.
“Every one of these is going to be a battle,” Troxell said.
In addition to Kegarise (Manheim Central) and Thompson (Northern Lebanon), the Dutchmen put three other L-L alums on the field: receiver Tyler Melhorn (Warwick), center Nate Sheaffer (Cedar Crest), who spelled Thompson, and starting guard Dakota Johnson-Ortiz (Warwick). Tyler Lutz (Manheim Central) and Tyler Gerhart (Warwick) started on the defensive line.
In addition to Rodenberger, a Manheim Township alum, Lancaster Catholic grad Peyton Snopek had 3.5 tackles on defense for the Diplomats.