The Lehigh football team used a 49-35 win over rival Lafayette College last fall to set the tone for what 2016 has in store. The team worked in the weight room throughout the offseason to try to enter spring ball faster and stronger than in past years.
The Mountain Hawks return much of their offensive core of players, who are preparing to have a big year in 2016.
Junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky, who has started under center since his freshman year, said he is working hard on and off the field to become the best leader and player he can be. Shafnisky has been focusing on leading by example by doing the little things but also getting on guys vocally when they need it.
“The leadership qualities the seniors from this past year instilled in me and the other guys is irreplaceable,” Shafnisky said. “Chris Ruhl pretty much took me under his wing, and I can honestly say he matured me and molded me into who I am today.”
Along with Shafnisky, sophomore wide receiver Troy Pelletier and freshman running back Dom Bragalone are expected to come back even better than last year.
As a freshman, Troy Pelletier stepped right in as Lehigh’s top receiver earning him a Second Team All-Patriot League nod. This past season, he made First Team All-Patriot League and is following the footsteps of former Lehigh greats at the position, such as Ryan Spadola, ’13, and Lee Kurfis, ’14, who both went on to have opportunities with NFL teams.
Bragalone was the first freshman in Lehigh history to rush for over 1,000 yards. In his first season in the brown and white, he won both Patriot League Rookie of the Year and was a First Team All-Patriot League selection.
Gatlin Casey, Derek Knott, Trevor Socarras, Sasha Kelsey, Zach Bucklin and Drew Paulsen are all offensive weapons expected to have solid seasons for the Mountain Hawks.
Shafnisky said he is excited for sophomores Liborio Ricottilli, Eric Hawkinson, Aidan O’Carroll, Thomas Zuewsky and Tim Wagner to step up and gain solid experience on the offensive line this spring for the upcoming season.
Throughout spring ball, the offense is focusing on limiting turnovers.
“Fumbles killed us last year, and interceptions can’t happen from Brad Mayes and I,” Shafnisky said. “I know the defense is all about flying around and getting all 11 guys on the field to the ball carrier.”
On the defensive side of the ball, junior Colton Caslow is preparing to have his best season yet. In his past two seasons, the linebacker has made two All-Patriot League teams, making the first team in 2015.
“Most importantly, my goal this season is to bring home a Patriot League Championship with my team,” Caslow said. “Personally, I’m working for the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and to be named on the All-American team.”
Another linebacker, Evan Kauffman, who redshirted his junior season because of a back injury, said he is excited to get back out on the field this spring. He was recruited out of Bethlehem’s Freedom High School as a linebacker but switched to fullback his sophomore season. This spring he moved back to his natural linebacker position.
“Playing fullback was unexpected, but the coaches needed me there and put me in a position to succeed there,” Kauffman said. “I’m fired up to be back on the defensive side of the ball where I originally came in at to play.”
The Mountain Hawks have seven spring practices remaining along with the Brown and White spring game scheduled for April 23 at 10 a.m. in Goodman Stadium.