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Lightning Shortens Maroon-White Game

April 16, 2010

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EASTON, Pa. - The 2010 spring football campaign concluded with the annual Maroon-White game on Friday night at Fisher Stadium, albeit much sooner than expected. Thunderstorms tore through the area and forced the game to be called after 35 of the 80 scheduled plays. The Maroon (offensive) emerged with a 25-4 decision.

"We didn't get anybody hurt and that is always my goal," said 11th year Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani.

The night kicked off with Lafayette strength and conditioning coach Brad Potts putting a group of 21 incoming freshmen through the dynamic stretching routine on the turf of Fisher Stadium. That was followed by a workout in the Gallagher Strength Center Bourger Varsity Field House, part of an NCAA program that allows incoming football players to get acclimated to a school's strength and conditioning program.

Prior to the first series, the 2010 captains were introduced on the field. Seniors Michael Schmidlein and Mitchell Bennett were selected by to their teammates in a team vote and were introduced to the team in the locker room prior to pre-game warmups.

The Schmidlein-Bennett tandem gives Lafayette an offensive and defensive captain, both of whom were 2009 All-Patriot League selections. Schmidlein, a linebacker who sat out Friday's scrimmage following shoulder surgery, led the team and ranked 23rd in the nation in tackles with 100 for the season and an average of 10 per game. The Economics and Business major recorded two sacks, had an interception and also forced a fumble in 2009.

Bennett made 40 catches as a junior, reeling in touchdown passes in four different games. He finished with 596 receiving yards. The Engineering major enjoyed his best game of the season against Fordham when he caught six balls for 93 yards, both career bests. Bennett has the option to garner an additional year of eligibility in 2011 if he applies for a medical redshirt from his freshman season when he sat out with a knee injury.

"I was really pleased and not surprised at all that our team selected Mike and Mitch," Tavani said. "I think they will be able to work well together and do a great job. They will be demanding of their peers and their own friends. I am looking forward to working with them."

The offense came out in the Leopards' traditional home game uniforms, maroon jerseys and white pants, while defense was clad in white jerseys with maroon pants. The quarterbacks, junior Ryan O'Neil and sophomore Andrew Shoop, wore black jerseys.

O'Neil took the first offensive series under center for the Leopards, resulting in a 65-yard drive that culminated with a three-yard score by sophomore tailback Vaughn Hebron. The drive was aided by a 30-yard pass from O'Neil to junior wideout Greg Stripe.

The Leopards' second series, which like the first started on the offense's own 35, featured Shoop at quarterback. The series resulted in a defensive stop with sophomore Sam Stuart bursting through the line to stop the ball carrier. Stuart finished the night with a couple of tackles for loss.

"He didn't have a lot of actual football experience coming in here," Tavani said of Stuart. "He's kind of a raw talent, has some size and ability, is very aggressive and loves playing football. He's really come a long ways."

The third series was another win for the defense. On the fourth series, a 43-yard pass from Shoop to Stripe set up another three-yard score by Hebron. O'Neil handled the fifth series starting at midfield. The drive ended in a 44-yard field goal by Davis Rodriguez.

The sixth series was highlighted by a series of untimely lighting strikes on the College Hill campus which put the game in a weather delay beginning at 7:40 until the game was called at 8:10. To that point, Lafayette had run 35 plays.

Hebron and junior Jerome Rudolph handled the bulk of the carries for the Leopards.

"Jerome has all of that game experience, but Vaughn has only played on some special teams on the varsity level," Tavani said. "Those two guys have really stood out in my mind in spring. I think you saw the kind of back Vaughn can be. He is gaining confidence and realizing what he can do with his 195-pound frame."

In the post-game press conference when asked about the quarterback situation, Tavani said that O'Neil would hold a "slight edge" over Shoop and senior Marc Quilling. Quilling sat out the game following a leg injury sustained in the fifth practice of spring ball.

The night kicked off with a bone marrow testing drive outside the Kirby Sports Center atrium as part of the national "Get in the Game, Save a Life" program which Lafayette has participated in the past two years. The call for registration has been hastened by Makaeya Wheeler, daughter of Lafayette public Safety Officer Lance Wheeler, who was recently diagnosed with a rate genetic disorder that will require a bone marrow donation. Potential bone marrow donors also signed up on the quad earlier in the afternoon on Friday. For those interested in contributing to offset the Wheeler family's medical and travel expenses, they can contact the wheeler family at or donations can be dropped of at the Lafayette Ambassador Bank at Fourth and Northampton Streets in Easton.

Lafayette will have one more practice tomorrow to officially close out the spring season.

Junior WR Kyle Hayes handled holding and punt return duties.