BETHLEHEM, Pa. – With ten days left until the season opener the Lehigh football team conducted its second scrimmage of preseason camp Wednesday afternoon on the John C. Whitehead Practice Fields. The Mountain Hawks went through positional drills before getting together for the scrimmage in a workout that lasted just under two hours, as Lehigh continues to make progress towards its September 3 season opener.
Like Friday’s scrimmage, the Mountain Hawks began the workout with positional drills followed by 7-on-7 passing drills and pass rush drills which matched Lehigh’s offensive line and defensive line. Once the scrimmage began, Lehigh put a heavier focus on situational work and while many first teamers saw limited work, many of the Mountain Hawks younger players had an opportunity to showcase their talents Wednesday afternoon.
“Today was very situational,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “What I’ve seen throughout camp is that there have been days when the offense dominates and days when the defense dominates. In the third down situations, the offense looked pretty good, but then we had a two minute deal at the end and the defense played very well in that. We finally got some goal line work in today that we have been pushing back. That was pretty spirited.”
Freshman QB Matt McHale eludes the rush from LB Ryan Wills.
The full-team portion of the scrimmage began with work on third down situations. Junior Marcus Dormevil had a pair of early rushes including a draw play that resulted in a first down. Lehigh’s offense was sharp through the air with senior quarterback Chris Lum’s first pass hauled in by senior tight end Mark Wickware for a first down. Lum also had impressive completions to senior Jimmy Jefferson and sophomore Lee Kurfis for first down yardage. With the second units on the field, freshman Josh Parris had a pair of nice grabs, one from each of the freshman quarterbacks: Gerard Poutier and Matt McHale.
Next up was a red-zone segment where Lum and Kurfis connected on a catch-and run which moved the ball inside the five yard line. On third down, sophomore Sean Farrell punched the ball in for a one-yard touchdown.
“We were without our top two tailbacks,” Coen explained. “They are both going to be fine, but were not out here today. We gave Marcus Dormevil some things and he found space to run. Sean Farrell was our fullback last year. He was coming off an injury but has finally gotten back and has been able to go full speed. He was a very good tailback in high school and got some tough yards on the goal line.
Coen continued, “A lot of our young wideouts continued to get reps today. We’re looking for guys to assert themselves after our first three or four wideouts. We’ll probably go into next week until we decide who those top guys are.
The revamped offensive line has been an area of focus throughout camp. Thursday’s first unit consisted of senior Keith Schauder and junior Mike Vuono at tackle, sophomores Matt Lippincott and Shane Rugg at guard and senior Jim Liebler at center. As the Mountain Hawks look to solidify that unit, Coen acknowledged the two veteran members of the group for helping keep things together.
“A lot of credit goes to Keith Schauder and James Liebler especially,” Coen said. “They are such tough minded kids. They love to play. They’ve done a great job keeping that offensive line going because it has been cut-and-paste for most of camp. I’m hoping by the weekend we’ll be settled in there.”
The next two series belonged to the defense, as the Mountain Hawks second unit forced the second offense into a field goal attempt, which was blocked by freshman Tim Newton. The “ones” for both sides returned to the field, and again the defense forced a field goal attempt. On the second field goal, junior Gabe Johnson came off the corner to get his hands on the kick.
Newton, the 6-foot-5 younger brother of linebacker Colin Newton, is having an especially strong camp and should provide further talent to one of Lehigh’s deepest units.
“He’s had a really good camp,” Coen noted. “In some other years, if our depth wasn’t as good, he’d get a shot to play. He still may, but there’s a veteran group in front of him which is good because he gets to learn. He must have knocked down some 20 passes in camp, plus he got the field goal today.”
After a break for punting, the Mountain Hawks went to the goal line. The first offense punched in both of its opportunities from the three yard line on a short touchdown pass by Lum and then a rush up the middle by Farrell. Sophomore Brandon Bialkowski also got the second unit into the end zone with a short touchdown pass to sophomore fullback Zach Hayden. The final play of the goal line session saw junior Billy Boyko break through to stuff sophomore Cody Haupt for a loss.
Defensively, several projected starters saw just limited action including Mike Groome, Colin Newton and Devin Greene, but Boyko and junior Sam Loughery stepped up with some impressive work in the scrimmage.
“Sam did a really nice job today,” Coen said. “We limited a lot of those other guys, but Sam has had himself a really nice camp and stepped up well today. We had some young guys step up in the secondary as well. Rickie Hill and Isaiah Campbell, a freshman, have been getting time at safety. That’s what you need to see, young guys stepping up. I think they did pretty well.”
The scrimmage concluded with two-minute drill work, first pitting the first offense against the second defense, and then the first defense against the second offense. When the Mountain Hawks return to the practice field on Thursday, they will begin their initial preparations for the season opener, September 3 at 1 p.m. in West Long Branch, N.J.
“Today’s scrimmage reaffirmed that we’re ready to start looking towards Monmouth,” Coen concluded. “I wasn’t crazy about the idea after this mornings’ practice but we came back with a lot more focus in the afternoon. A lot of these guys are showing that they’re ready to go out and hit somebody in a different jersey.”
Earlier in the week the second major poll, the FCS Coaches Poll, was unveiled with the Mountain Hawks coming in at No. 15. Lehigh was ranked 13th in the Sports Network/Fathead.com Preseason Top 25 announced last week. The Mountain Hawks ended last season ranked 14th in both polls. Among Lehigh’s 2011 opponents, New Hampshire is tenth in both polls, while Liberty is No. 22 in the Sports Network Poll and 18th in the Coaches Poll.
NOTES FROM CAMP… University orientation begins for freshmen on Thursday… Lehigh will hold single practices on Thursday and Friday and then a practice Saturday afternoon followed by a mock game at night… Sunday afternoon’s practice will be followed by the annual Alumni Steak Fry inside Goodman Stadium… players will be off Monday for the first day of classes for the fall semester.