LYNDON — Mistakes proved costly.
Lyndon Institute turned the ball over four times in a 16-6 loss to U-32 at Robert K. Lewis Field on Saturday.
The Vikings (3-3) also committed two pass interference penalties, one negating an interception and the other setting up the Raiders‘ decisive second score.
“Too many errors, miscues, and things that weren’t forced,” said Lyndon head coach Dan Nolan.
Those missteps spoiled an otherwise outstanding performance by the Vikings’ defense.
Boosted by the return of lineman Victor Richardy (6-foot-1, 300 pounds) and linebackers Bryon Noyes and Jake Sanville, Lyndon limited U-32’s ground attack (allowing 74 rushing yards) and held the Raiders scoreless on 10 of 12 possessions (forcing eight punts and one turnover on downs).
They did so without first-string defensive backs Cam Berry (injury) and Ethan Chhoeung.
LI has allowed a respectable 19 points per game this season, and just 14 ppg over the last three contests.
“They fly to the ball,” said U-32 head coach Brian Divelbliss about the LI defense. “There’s not one or two guys on the tackle. They’re having four or five guys on the tackle and that makes it tough. They’re an aggressive team and they’re well-coached.”
The game carried playoff implications.
Both teams entered Week 7 ranked among the top 4 in D-II (U-32 third, LI fourth).
With the win, U-32 (5-2) remains in contention for the second seed and home-field advantage through the first two playoff rounds.
Meanwhile, Lyndon appears destined for the 4/5 game, with the winner likely to face undefeated top seed Bellows Falls in the semifinals.
Official power rankings will be released this week.
Twice, U-32 capitalized on Lyndon miscues.
In the first quarter, the Raiders recovered an LI fumble in the red zone. Four plays later QB Cameron Comstock scored on a 6-yard run. His two-point conversion put U-32 up 8-0 at 7:34 in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, the Raiders recovered another fumble deep in Vikings’ territory.
On fourth and 10, a Comstock throw fell incomplete. However, LI was called for pass interference, giving U-32 the ball back on fourth-and-1. Comstock responded with a 9-yard keeper for a first down and a 2-yard TD run. A Crosse Gariboldi two-point conversion made it 16-0 at 5:21.
“Twice they were set up with short fields on bad plays by us,” Nolan said. “It’s unfortunate. We can’t have those kinds of unforced errors and expect to beat good teams, and U-32 is a solid football team.”
Nolan also gave credit to the U-32 defense, particularly DT Henry Beling, “He made our life miserable throughout, the kid’s a horse. It was a struggle between the tackles on account of him.”
Down but not out, Lyndon showed its trademark toughness in the fourth quarter.
After the Vikings had two deep drives into the red zone end with fumbles, LI broke through with a lightning-strike score.
On the first play after a U-32 punt, QB Zach Hale found WR Aiden MacKenzie for a 35-yard scoring pass to make it 14-6 with 5:06 to go.
Moments later, Lyndon regained possession at 2:53 and drove 55 yards before turning the ball over on downs to end the game.
“[Hale] did a good job of executing our two-minute offense. That’s not easy. We made some plays down the field and put ourselves in position,” Nolan said. “Can’t fault our kids, I’m proud of them, they continue to battle. We just have to be cleaner.”
Next, LI plays at St. Johnsbury (3-3 D-I) for The Game.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23.
NOTES: Hale and Ashton Gould alternated at quarterback in place of Berry (injured). Berry, who started the previous three contests, is out through at least the end of the regular season.