Senior Donovan Lassiter and sophomore Nick Peltekian run off the field after an interception in their game against Dartmouth on Sept. 23. The two combined for 15 tackles throughout the game. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Building trust in the defense


The Lehigh football team met Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire, for their fourth game of the season on Sept. 23. 

Though the game ended 34-17 in favor of Dartmouth, Lehigh’s defensive backs continued to showcase the tenacity and poise the coaching staff has praised them for this season.

“We’ve got a lot of good players. They work hard, they challenge each other and are hungry to improve on a day-to-day basis,” defensive backs coach Mike Kashurba said. “Really the credit is to them, and we’re all really excited to see how far we can take this thing.” 

On the first drive, The Big Green pushed the Mountain Hawks back to their own 7-yard line and Dartmouth’s quarterback took the snap and shot through the gap on the left side of the line.  

Sophomore defensive back Nick Peltekian collided with the ball carrier and stood him up just long enough to grab hold of the ball and rip it from his hands, causing it to fall to the turf. 

Junior defensive back Logan Jones saw this and scooped up the ball, running it 92 yards the opposite direction for the first score of the game. 

In the third quarter, Dartmouth’s quarterback aired a deep pass from midfield to the goal line. The receiver tracked the ball to the endzone for what would have been a touchdown if senior defensive back Donovan Lassiter, who was a step behind, had not undercut the route, going airborne to make the interception. 

The defensive back is made up of mostly underclassmen with veterans sprinkled throughout the lineup. 

Sophomore Nick Peltekian tackles an opponent during their game against Merrimack Sept. 30. Peltekian has 31 total tackles and one forced fumble so far this season. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

So far in the season, Lassiter and Jones have two interceptions and a fumble recovery touchdown respectively. Meanwhile, Peltekian, in his first five games, leads the unit with 31 total tackles and first-year Aidan Singleton has recorded 20.

Kashurba said a few players stood out for their play recently. He listed junior transfer Jordan Adderley, who came to Lehigh after playing two seasons at Sacred Heart, first-year DJ Brown, who has seen a lot of action to start his collegiate career, and sophomore Michael Jordan Jr. 

With the group consisting of mainly younger players, the veterans have been crucial in getting the less-experienced players up to speed, as well as supporting the team on the field. 

“I’m not much of a vocal leader, but it’s been something that I’ve been working on,” Lassiter said. “On the field (I’ve been teaching them) what type of things to look out for, maybe it’s a receiver’s alignment or the (quarterback’s) intentions, it’s just really looking out for them.”

Lassiter also credited the coaching staff with assisting in the development of the players. 

Lehigh football implemented a change in the coaching staff with the arrival of head coach Kevin Cahill, but Kashurba, a six-year veteran on the Mountain Hawks’ staff, stuck around. Lassiter said the defensive backs work to make Kashurba proud. 

“When it was getting time to decide who we might want to keep, everybody in the defensive back group advocated for coach (Kashurba),” Lassiter said. “Him already being here and already having those relationships (with players), it definitely affects our play.”

Kashurba, along with the rest of the team, said he has bought into Cahill’s process-based philosophy and is using it when coaching the defensive backs.

He said the football season is a 365-day-a-year thing and measuring the success of a team based on 11 days gets to be pretty challenging. 

Peltekian said trust is also a major component of the defensive backs’ philosophy — the unit is based on teammates relying on each other and staying on their assignments. 

“Do your job, don’t try and do other people’s job,” Peltekian said. “I was just used to trying to make the play, make the big play, try and get the interception, but in college, you can’t do that.”

Peltekian noted that a single miscue could result in six points for the other team and emphasized that trust is the most important element to cultivating a successful position group.

Senior Donovan Lassiter intercepts a throw during their game against Dartmouth Sept. 23. Lassiter has two interceptions on the season and three total in his career. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

As the season progresses, the defensive backs continue to build on Kashurba and Cahill’s specific style of coaching and focus on improvement. Lassiter said the defensive backs are leading the charge in the early days of Cahill’s tenure with an emphasis on brotherhood and cooperation. 

“Everybody started to trust themselves more, trusting their ability, trusting the coaching, so that’s allowed us to be in the right positions to make those plays,” Lassister said. “You do your job, I’ll do my job and at the end of the day we’ll get good results.”

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