Thursday, August 30, 2018

2018 Lycoming football season preview - Defense stepping up for the new season

Sr DB Joe Pinzka picks off a pass during a recent scrimmage
Defensive Line
Two starters and two returners that earned significant snaps as freshmen return to a defensive front that the Warriors will count on to anchor a front seven that Clark believes could be one of the strengths of the team.

Seniors Ahmad Curtis (Effort, Pa./Pleasant Valley) and Sam Romanofsky (Havertown, Pa./Haverford) return as starters as both had breakthrough years in 2017. Curtis earned honorable mention all-conference honors after posting 31 tackles and adding an interception return for a touchdown in his first full year as a starter at defensive tackle, as the 300-pounder is one the team’s most disruptive presence inside. Romanofsky, at defensive end, turned into one of the best pass rushers in the conference in 2017, finishing fourth in the league with seven sacks and adding 10.0 tackles for loss.

Sophomores Kyle Pierce (Berwick, Pa./Berwick) and Matt Galasso (Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic) each saw significant time on the line in 2017, with Pierce posting 22 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and Galasso adding 30 stops and five tackles for loss. They will both step into starting assignments early this year, and Galasso, with his 250-pound frame, can see time in any of the four spots along the line.

Seniors Taylor Kim (Avondale, Pa./Avon Grove) and Logan Chetaitis (Mechnicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley) can also work into the rotation on the end and sophomores Trent Riggs (Centreville, Md./Queen Anne’s County), Jerry Curran (Springfield, Pa./Malvern Prep) and Najee Corbin (Springdale, Md./Charles H. Flowers) could also all see snaps throughout the year.

Who Returns: Logan Chetaitis, Sr., Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley; Najee Corbin, So., Springdale, Md./Charles H. Flowers; Jerry Curran, So., Springfield, Pa./Malvern Prep; Ahmad Curtis, Sr., Effort, Pa./Pleasant Valley; Matt Galasso, So., Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic; Luke Ganny, So., Basking Ridge, N.J./Ridge; Taylor Kim, Sr., Avondale, Pa./Avon Grove; Kyle Pierce, So., Berwick, Pa./Berwick Area; Trent Riggs, So., Centreville, Md./Queen Anne's County; Sam Romanofsky, Sr., Havertown, Pa./Haverford.

Newcomers: Duane Boone, Jr., Tyrone, Pa./Tyrone Area; Marshall Charles, Fr., Inglewood, Calif./Verbum Dei; Willie Garner, Fr., Brick, N.J./Brick Memorial; Matt Stankiewicz, Fr., Olyphant, Pa./Mid Valley; Christian Torres, Fr., Pasadena, Md./Northeast; Stephen Zakrzewski, Fr., Conshohocken, Pa./Roman Catholic.

Coach’s Take: “Sam Romanofsky will be the guy to set the tone on the line. He was fourth in the conference in sacks last year. He is just a very good Division III defensive end. He is a really relentless guy. Inside, it’s nice that we have some depth there and some big guys. Ahmad is a bigger body and so is Kyle Pierce. Matt Galasso is a bit of a swing guy who joined our program a little late last year, but can play either tackle or end. Taylor Kim is a guy who always gives our best and as a pash rusher, he will be able to help our team. Duane Boone is a guy we are excited about and Trent Riggs is a guy who adds size and depth. This is probably our deepest collection of defensive linemen in four years.”

Rounding out the front seven, Clark said that while the defensive line could be impressive, it’s the depth of the linebacking crew that really excites him and co-defensive coordinators Steve Wiser and Mark Surma.

The depth of the Warriors’ linebacking crew includes four seniors, two with starting experience, five juniors, three with starting experience and two returning sophomores.

Senior Jarrell Payne (Jersey City, N.J./Liberty) will see time in the WILL slot again after the 5-9 former cornerback posted 42 tackles, three for a loss, as a junior. Classmate Dominic Loffredo (Linden, Pa./Jersey Shore Area) also returns in the SAM spot after posting 99 tackles in his first two seasons before an injury kept him off the field last year.

Junior Sam Pawlikowski (West Creek, N.J./Seneca) started throughout 2017 in the SAM spot and will be able to split time with Loffredo this year. He is the team’s top returning tackler, making 59 stops, 4.0 for loss, to go with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

In the middle, the team can turn to several options that have seen time at the position. Junior Trey Smith (Hughesville, Pa./Hughesville) made 39 tackles to go with two interceptions in his first year as a starter and classmate Zach Kovach (Duncansville, Pa./Hollidaysburg) added 25 stops, 3.5 for loss in seven games. Junior John Schmidt (Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic) added 19 tackles in five games of an injury-shortened season and sophomore Matt Kalyan (Auburn, Pa./Schuylkill Haven) also struggled with injuries in 2017, but has impressed in the middle through the spring and early part of camp.

Sophomore Andre Jackson Jr. (Paterson, N.J./Hawthorne) appeared in six games, making eight tackles, two for loss, while seeing time in the WILL position in 2017. 

The depth at the position doesn’t stop there, with seven newcomers also working for playing time along with seniors Gabe Fuhrman (Bainbridge, Pa./Elizabethtown) and Josh LoBasso (Honesdale, Pa./Honesdale) and junior Tyler George (Clifton Heights, Pa./Upper Darby).

Who Returns: Gabe Fuhrman, Sr., Bainbridge, Pa./Elizabethtown Area; Tyler George, Jr., Clifton Heights Pa./Upper Darby; Andre Jackson Jr., So., Paterson, N.J./Hawthorne; Matt Kalyan, So., Auburn, Pa./Schuylkill Haven; Zach Kovach, Jr., Duncansville, Pa./Hollidaysburg Area; Josh LoBasso, Sr., Honesdale, Pa./Honesdale; Dominic Loffredo, Sr., Linden, Pa./Jersey Shore Area; Sam Pawlikowski, Jr., West Creek, N.J./Seneca; Jarrell Payne, Sr., Jersey City, N.J./Liberty; John Schmidt, Jr., Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic; Trey Smith, Jr., Hughesville, Pa./Hughesville.

Newcomers: Trey Borger, Fr., Dallas, Pa./Lake-Lehman; Mike Kalyan, So., Auburn, Pa./Schuylkill Haven; E.J. Kortum, Fr., Orlando, Fla./Freedom; Josh Paul, Fr., Gettysburg, Pa./Gettysburg Area; Sam Pittsman, Fr., Archbald, Pa./Valley View; Dave Schuster, Fr., Shavertown, Pa./Dallas.

Coach’s Take: “Much like the defensive line, this is a strong group of linebackers and really, all of these guys have at least one more year of eligibility left after this year. If you look at the outside linebacker spot, Jarrell Payne and Andre Jackson will be there. We’ll have two guys playing the field outside linebacker spot who could be offensive skill players. Both of those guys can really run. Moving inside, Sam Pawlikowski isn’t the biggest guy, but man can he run. Zach Kovach played a lot as a freshman and it took a while last year before he got healthy and played really well. Dom Loffredo is a guy after a year off that is in really good shape and should help us. Trey Smith is a guy who did some great things before. John Schmidt has played well. Mike and Matt Kalyan, as well. All of those guys are capable of being in the game, so we have eight or nine total linebackers that can play and that doesn’t include some guys that will surface. The measuring stick for me is team speed and this will be the best group we’ve had up front in several years.”

Defensive Backs
With three returning starters in the defensive backfield, the Warriors have both experience, but also a need to fill out the depth chart at the position.

Senior captain Joe Pinzka (Perkasie, Pa./Lansdale Catholic) returns after starting throughout 2017 as safety, posting 45 tackles and adding a fumble recovery. In the other safety slot, junior Korahn Williams (Reading, Pa./Reading) added 28 tackles and a fumble recovery. Juniors Jeff Coplin (Philadelphia, Pa./Central), who has moved from quarterback to the other side of the ball, and Logan Johnson (Imler, Pa./Claysburg-Kimmel), a Division II transfer, add two more options that will see time throughout the season.

At cornerback, senior D.J. Boyd (Seat Pleasant, Md./Fairmount Heights) returns, giving the team a solid defender to shut down an opponent’s top receiver. He posted 52 tackles as a junior, making 5.5 for loss, and he added five pass breakups and an interception. Sophomores Gianni Bryant-Lopez (Delran, N.J./Delran) and Colin Munley (Carbondale, Pa./Mid Valley) will also factor into the cornerback rotation, while a group of seven newcomers will all have the opportunity to earn playing time this year.

Who Returns: D.J. Boyd, Sr., Seat Pleasant, Md./Fairmount Heights; Gianni Bryant-Lopez, So., Delran, N.J./Delran; Jeff Coplin, Jr., Philadelphia, Pa./Central; Logan Johnson, Jr., Imler, Pa./Claysburg-Kimmel; Allen Martin, So., Secane, Pa./Ridley; Colin Munley, So., Carbondale, Pa./Mid Valley; Joe Pinzka, Sr., Perkasie, Pa./Lansdale Catholic; Jake Strassner, Jr., Montoursville, Pa./Montoursville Area; Korahn Williams, Jr., Reading, Pa./Reading.

Newcomers: Nasir Bowen, Fr., Elkins Park, Pa./Archbishop Wood; Samir Brisbon, Fr., Bensalem, Pa./Bristol; Ryan Cocciadiferro, Fr., Dumont, N.J./Dumont; Isaiah McDavison, Fr., Morrisville, Pa./Morrisville; Malachi Savage, So., Picture Rocks, Pa./Hughesville; Joshua Shermeyer, Fr., Harrisburg, Pa./East Pennsboro; John Michael Wilen, Fr., Brooklyn, N.Y./James Madison.

Coach’s Take: “We’re going to have to piece some things together. Allen Martin is a guy who we think can be a really good player, but is working through a nagging injury. Joe and D.J. are the best starting defensive backs returning and they are good places to start. They are good players and leaders. Korahn gives us some versatility to play safety and cornerback as well. Probably our biggest concern heading into the season is figuring out those four guys and getting them to fit in.”