Maroon-White Game Wraps Up Spring Season
April 20, 2013
EASTON, Pa. - Lafayette football put an end to its spring season on Saturday with the playing of the annual Maroon-White Spring Game at Fisher Stadium. Lafayette had 53 of its 72 players suited up for the scrimmage which concluded after 90 minutes with the Maroon (offense) registering a 40-33 win over the white (defense) squad.
"I was pleased. We've done quite a bit of scrimmaging in the practices before," said Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani as he enters his 14th season at the helm of the Leopard program. "We held some people out. There were some guys really battling me to let them go today."
"I said right from the very beginning we were going to keep things very simple, so I wanted to take the thinking and confusion out of things and to be able to work on base techniques and keep doing them over and over and over again."
The day started with rising junior quarterback Zach Zweizig running the option to classmate Ross Scheuerman toward the home sideline. After a pedestrian first effort, Scheuerman took the handoff and ran it in from 57 yards out for the touchdown. The All-Patriot League tailback played just 10 plays in the scrimmage as scripted by the coaching staff.
"He's really had a great spring. He was always a very good outside runner on the perimeter and was learning to be that inside runner, and now he's really got a good feel for those things and to accelerate," Tavani said. "He went out there on the edge and that play got a little wider. He planted that foot and when he goes, you're not catching him. It was really good to see."
"I wanted to see the other guys. I thought Marcellus Irving showed some good things out there. We really like what (converted fullback Greg) Kessel's done all spring there. And Deuce Gruden has really improved. He's at a new position that we put him at last year, having never played that position as a running back. And he's made a nice adjustment."
Irving helped make his case with a 38-yard run in the second half, taking the Leopards out from their own three-yard line.
Zweizig played the first three series of the scrimmage before splitting time with rising sophomore Andrew Dzurik. Dzurik made his presence known, completing a 66-yard strike to Justin Adams who beat senior DeOliver Davis on the play.
When Zweizig got back under center, he found sophomore Freddie Hess for 51 yards inside the 15-yard line. Zweizig kept the drive going with his feet, rushing for a first down to the four-yard line. Zweizig's play-action pass to junior Demetrius Dixon finished off the drive.
Before the end of the half, Davis had a chance for revenge, nearly picking off an underthrown pass to Adams. The Maroon led 25-17 at halftime.
In the second half, the Leopard special teams had a chance to shine. Sophomore Ryan Gralish, who has been handling placekicking and punting duties in the spring, booted a 40-yard field goal.
"I thought Ryan Gralish did a nice job, handling both chores. He has punch in that leg. He's working hard to become more consistent."
"What I really liked today was special teams. We've put a lot of emphasis on it in practice and that's probably the most special team reps that we've run in any of these spring scrimmages since I've been here," Tavani said. "We're really trying to audition guys and that's their way of getting on the bus for an away trip and also moving their way up the depth chart."
Defensively, the line has been the biggest question for Lafayette, but that corps made its presence felt in the second half. Junior DE James Coscia registered a sack in the endzone for a safety and Steve Mercado and Darius Glover racked up big hits on run plays along with linebacker Chris Brockman, including several tackles for loss.
"I was really pleased with the way our defensive line played. They were penetrating. We want to penetrate and disrupt blocking schemes," Tavani said. "Darius Glover was what I was really looking for, stepping up and being a dominant player out there. Some of those young guys, Ryan Sanders and Steve Mercado, those two freshmen played well."
The defense edged closer to the offense when sophomore Kyle Sakowski picked off Zweizig in the end zone on a ball thrown into double coverage. But Dzurik created some distance on the scoreboard with an eight-yard TD toss to Adams. Gralish's PAT made to 39-26 in the 40-33 final.
After the scrimmage, Tavani sat down in his Bourger Varsity Football Office with newspaper writers to discuss this team's progress, comparing it to his program a year ago.
"You have guys that have played now. Last year, guys had no game experience and they were still only practice scrimmage experience. This year you're putting guys out there who have had a season under their belt and took some hard knocks out there. Now, they're a little bit more confident. Especially that O line as a group. They're talking. They're communicating. They're coming off the ball."
"We made tremendous gains of strength in the strength room and that's a huge boost for us particularly on the offensive and defensive lines which, again, was an emphasis in the off season," Tavani continued. "I saw a lot of young players making plays out there that haven't had an opportunity to do that and that's really what you're trying to get done."
The team will report to camp in August, undertaking 29 practices before the season opener vs. Sacred Heart on Sept. 7 at Fisher Stadium.
NOTABLE ABSENCES: As is always the case, concern for injuries limited several key players who will be starters in 2013. Senior tight end Brandon Hall, sophomore wideout Jamel Smith and senior wide receiver Mark Ross sat out the game. Hall returns as the starting tight end. Smith was the 2012 Patriot League Rookie of the Year and Ross is an All-Patriot League First-Team performer who is coming off a 1000-yard season in which he caught 75 balls and had 10 touchdowns. On the line, a mild ankle injury kept Max Ngolla out of the lineup at guard.
Defensively, two starters in the backfield, junior safeties Jared Roberts and Shane Black, missed the game with hamstring and toe injuries, respectively. Senior LB Ben Aloi, sophomore LB Darren Wright and junior DE Shane Dorner sat out while recovering from 2012 surgeries.
FULLBACK: The Leopards employed a two-fullback set on occasion, using senior Pat Creahan and sophomore Freddie Hess. Hess's classmate, Dan Dellovade would have figured in that mix after a strong spring, but he sat out Saturday with an ankle injury.
RETURN GAME: Junior Justin Adams handled the punt and kick return duties. Adams was back deep along with Ross Scheuerman and Deuce Gruden on kickoffs. A healthy Jamel Smith will also likely play a significant role in the return game.
NEW INJURIES: Sophomore John Hoffman sustained the only major injury on Saturday, going down with a shoulder injury late in the scrimmage.
QB'S FOR ALL-TIME: Twelve alumni quarterbacks were scheduled to be in attendance on Saturday, ranging from recent graduates Ryan O'Neil, Marc Quilling and Rob Curley to older alums Gary Uzelac, Rob Stewart and Frank Baur.