Last updated: February 16. 2013 11:28PM - 223 Views

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Two much bigger defenders were waiting for Tyler Hartranft at the end of his 17-yard quarterback scramble, but he put his head down and took the punishing hit.


Because he believed it would help King's College win the game.


Kris Matthews spent a whole afternoon in the secondary chasing hard after supremely talented and more athletic athletes.


Because he also had faith it would pay off in victory.


Those types of efforts didn't help the lowly King's College football team upset a powerful Widener team ranked No. 25 in the nation by d3football.com.


But someday soon, such conviction will result in success for the downtrodden Monarchs.


They really believe that.


"We made some major steps," said Matthews, a sophomore defensive back from Connecticut.


"We're getting there," said Hartranft, a sophomore quarterback from Blue Mountain High School who made his first college start Saturday. "We're definitely on our way."


Little more than two minutes into the second half against Widener, the Monarchs were on their way to another defeat, a 41-6 whipping that dropped them to 0-2 on the season and 2-20 under third-year coach Jeff Knarr.


But this one was a tougher battle than what the scoreboard said.


Consider:


King's held a 6-0 lead minutes into the second quarter.


It could have been 10-0 if not for a failed extra point and a 44-yard field goal attempt that died at the crossbar.


That lead would have lasted longer if not for a poor punt that actually lost two yards on a windy day, setting Widener up 30 yards from the end zone for its first touchdown drive.


And before that errant punt, the King's defense held Widener without a first down on its first four possessions.


"We came here, we were trying to win," Matthews said.


It showed.


King's was within 14-6 late in the first half and still had an outside shot at a comeback late in the third quarter, driving to Widener's 34-yard line before the scoring march stalled – along with all Monarchs' hopes of victory.


"Widener, they went to another gear," Knarr said. "Our guys, we might not have another gear yet."


What the Monarchs do have right now is optimism.


They are certain things will get better because they can feel themselves progressing rapidly.


"We could see major improvement from what I saw last year, to spring ball, to now," Hartranft said. "It felt really good to be up on a nationally-ranked team. We feel like we can play with anybody."


At least for awhile.


"We did much better this year (against Widener) than last year," said Matthews, noting that the Pride put a 70-0 pasting on King's a year ago. "We're improving every single day. If we keep working, we're going to be up there in the MAC."


Don't laugh.


It's not hard to see the Monarchs working their way up the MAC standings, as long as they keep playing as if they have a chance to get all the way to the top.


"They believe in themselves," Knarr said. "That's something, when we got here, I don't believe was here. They came out and they didn't let a nationally-ranked team intimidate them.


"They believe good things are going to come."


Those good things didn't come as fast or didn't last as long as the Monarchs had hoped against a high-caliber opponent.


But there was enough to suggest success, if not superiority, it just around the corner.


Paul Sokoloski is a Times Leader sports columnist. You may reach him at 970-7109 or email him at psokoloski@timesleader.com.

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