Saturday’s Game: Franklin & Marshall (0-0) at Washington & Lee (0-0)
Overall: W&L leads 5-4 | In Lancatser: F&M leads 3-2 | In Lexington: W&L leads 3-1
Franklin, Marshall, Washington, and Lee. The names convey a sense of history, but there is not much history between these schools to speak of. Today’s game marks just the tenth time these teams have squared off on the football field. The Generals hold sway on the Diplomats with a 5-4 lead in the series. Washington & Lee took three-straight in the early 1960’s before the series went on a 43-year hiatus. The Diplomats won the first two meetings and both at home since the renewal. Last year’s contest marked the second consecutive shutout in the series.
a little history
The John Troxell era enters season number four as the Diplomats prepare to embark on the 122nd campaign since F&M first hit the grid circuit in October of 1887. The Diplomats have posted winning records in 67 seasons, and losing records in 47 seasons. Seven seasons have seen the Diplomats finish at .500. F&M’s last winning season was in 2004 when the Diplomats went 8-3 in capturing an ECAC Championship.
F&M has gone undefeated and untied in four seasons (1950, 1964, 1972, 1974), and was undefeated with one tie in 1945. The Diplomats have suffered through five seasons without a win: 1887, 1904, 1926, 1962, and 2000. The 1926 season saw F&M post one tie.
scouting the generals
Washington & Lee was picked to finish sixth among the seven league schools in voting conducted by the ODAC’s head coaches. The Generals finished the 2008 season with a 4-6 overall record and a 1-5 mark in the ODAC. W&L began the season 4-1 before dropping the final five games of the season. However, W&L held halftime leads in four of those five losses and returns 40 letterwinners and 14 starters this fall. Headlining the returnees are a trio of returning All-ODAC honorees and the 2008 ODAC Rookie of the Year. Senior guard Charlie Craigle garnered First Team All-ODAC and First Team All-State laurels and junior guard Greg Kurkis received Second Team All-ODAC recognition last season in helping the Generals’ offense average 162.7 rushing yards and 23.6 points per game. Both return to anchor the offensive line in 2009. Senior Matt Cassilly also returns after posting Second Team All-ODAC honors at linebacker last fall after totaling 62 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions. Sophomore Charlie Westfal is back at quarterback after winning the ODAC’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2008. Westfal rushed for 511 yards and three touchdowns and completed 55.2 percent of his passes for 1,310 yards and 10 more touchdowns.
the last meeting
In the remnants of a hurricane, Franklin & Marshall freshman John Kaschak (Lake Hoptacong, N.J. / Jefferson Twp.) rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries as the Diplomats (1-0) blanked Washington & Lee 24-0. F&M cashed in on two Generals’ (0-1) miscues for 10 points in the second quarter.
the last meeting in lexington
Tom Pacicco rushed for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead Washington & Lee to a 20-0 win over Franklin & Marshall. The Generals’ (1-0) defense limited the Diplomats (0-1) to 122 yards of total offense in posting the shutout. F&M was blanked for the first time since week two of the 2005 season.
first game facts
Franklin & Marshall is 66-52-3 in its season openers. The first opening day win came in the second season that F&M hit the field (1889) - a 60-0 win over cross-town rival, Millersville. F&M lost its first opening day game at the York Y.M.C.A, 9-0 on October 10, 1887. Those were the first pair of the 51 opening day games that have been shutouts. F&M is 22-28-1 in season openers that have seen a side shutout, including last year’s 24-0 blanking of Washington & Lee, avenging the 20-0 shutout at the hands of the Generals the season prior. The lone tie was a 0-0 barnburner between F&M and Delaware, at Delaware, on October 4, 1919. F&M’s largest margin of victory and highest point total on opening day came in a 69-0 shutout of the crew of the U.S.S. Connecticut on September 27, 1913. The largest margin of defeat and most points scored against F&M in a season opener came in a 66-0 loss at Fordham on October 2, 1937.F&M is 2-1 in season openers under John Troxell. All three of those games were against today’s opponent. The Diplomats are 5-5 in the last 10 season openers.
diplomats first road game
Franklin & Marshall is 43-73-5 in its first road game of the season. When the first road game of the season also happens to be the season opener, the Diplomats are 15-36-4.
F&M’s shutout of W&L in last year’s tilt was F&M’s first since blanking Carnegie Mellon in 2005. It was also the first of the Troxell era at F&M. The Diplomats pitched three shutouts during the 2008 season, holding Juniata and McDaniel scoreless. All three shutouts came on the grass of Sponaugle-Williamson Field.
centennial poll position
Franklin & Marshall was picked for a sixth place finish in the nine team Centennial Conference. The Diplomats amassed 63 points in the poll of the league’s head coaches and Sports Information Directors. F&M was 18 points ahead of Ursinus and 12 points behind Gettysburg. Johns Hopkins, with 115 points and 10 first place votes, beat out Dickinson and Muhlenberg with 102 points apiece.
Seniors, George Eager (Lititz, Pa. / Manheim Twp.), Barry Lovett (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Poly Prep), Ryan Murray (Sebastian, Fla. / St. Edward’s) and junior, Mark Surma (Philadelphia / Central) will lead the 122nd edition of the Diplomats into battle this season.
A solid sign that F&M’s program is turning the corner on its way back to solid footing is last year’s All-Centennial Conference selection. Eight Diplomats were tabbed for the mythical 11, matching the total of All-Centennial choices through the first two years of the Troxell era. Of those eight choices, only three return to the F&M lineup in 2008: George Eager KR-1st/WR-2nd, Jeff Kellar (State College, Pa. / State College) – DB-2nd, and Barry Lovett CB-1st.
Eager entered the season’s final week as the third ranked kick returner in the nation averaging over 32 yards per kick return. In conference play, he averaged 27.0 yards on 18 kickoff returns, and went 85-yards for a touchdown against Dickinson. Eager’s presence forced teams to kick away, and often out of bands in the latter half of the season. As a receiver, Eager caught F&M’s two longest touchdowns of the season, scoring from 67 and 65 yards. He was named to the second team for the second time in as many seasons. His five receiving touchdowns ranked third amongst the league’s top receivers during league play. Overall, Eager caught 51 passes for 637 yards and six touchdowns.
Kellar made his first All-Centennial appearance following a season in which he posted 55 tackles (39 solo) – good enough for third on the team. Kellar picked off three passes, returning one 51 yards for a touchdown - the second touchdown return of his career. He also broke up four passes. Kellar is the only F&M all-conference selection to also have earned a place on the Centennial’s Academic Honor Roll.
Lovett, who rarely saw balls thrown in his direction, intercepted a pair of passes and broke up four more in 2008. The physical corner is also a force in stopping the run, piling up 36 tackles, including five behind the line of scrimmage. He forced and recovered a fumble as well.
An unscientific poll of viewers participating in the Centennial Conference’s inaugural online media day overwhelmingly selected F&M cornerback, Barry Lovett as the preseason frontrunner for Centennial Defensive Player of the Year. Lovett captured 49 percent of the vote. Colin Wixted, a Johns Hopkins linebacker, was second in the voting with 19 percent.
Last year, John Harrison (Flourtown, Pa. / La Salle College H.S.) became Franklin & Marshall’s first freshman to accept the season’s first snap since Rob Shepardson in 1979. The 2007 Maxwell Award recipient threw for 1,328 yards - the fourth best season by a freshman on record in the Centennial Conference. His 14 touchdown passes ties the freshman record in the league with Gettysburg’s current signal caller, Matt Flynn. Harrison’s 14 touchdown passes and 133 completions both rank ninth on F&M’s the single-season list.
taking diggs at opponents
Sophomore Jarrell Diggs (Baltimore / Gilman) wasted little time in making a name for himself in 2008. In his first collegiate game, Diggs returned a punt 49-yards for a touchdown against the Generals of Washington & Lee. It was F&M’s first punt return for a score since September 21, 2002, when Jay Tressler rumbled 61 yards for a score against Ursinus.
F&M has four backs that will see time in the season opener. Ryan Murray (Sebastian, Fla. / St. Edward’s School) is a punishing physical runner when moving north and south, while Alan Williams (Benton, Ky. / Marshall County) is a prototypical scat back that can line up anywhere on the field. John Kaschak is a hybrid of the two combining power and quickness.
Kaschak emerged as the feature back in 2008, carrying the workload in the season’s early going with success. He toted pigskin 119 times through the first four games averaging 96.25 yards per contest. Alone in the backfield while Murray and Williams were injured, the freshman was nicked up by midseason. Murray ended his 2007 season with one of the top rushing performances on record at F&M, but struggled to regain that form after a leg injury in camp. He still managed 3.4 yards per carry on the season, and broke out for 74 yards on 10 carries in the season finale at Gettysburg. Williams’ season was marred by a severe arm injury suffered in the first half of the season-opener. He showed flashes of brilliance upon his return, particularly when provided with space to work. In four games he recorded at least one reception of 10 or more yards, mostly coming after the catch and broke off several long runs. Freshman, Jacob Kelly (San Diego, Calif. / The Bishop’s School), has earned some touches as well. A back built like Williams, Kelly was the team MVP on a 12-0 squad that won the San Diego section his junior year.
Aside from Kelly, four players will start or are likely to see plenty of action with the first units on opening day for the Diplomats, two on either side of the ball. Kenny Provost (Petoskey, Mich. / Petoskey) and Connor Spellman (White Plains, N.Y. / White Plains) will start on the revamped offensive line. Sam Massaro (Old Tappan, N.J. / Northern Valley Old Tappan) will start at inside backer, while Jordan Studevan (Philadelphia / Wm. Penn Charter) will be in the rotation along the defensive line.
Provost was a three-time all-area selection, while Spellman was a three-year starter and two-time all–league choice. Massaro was his team’s MVP despite tearing his ACL as a senior and was a Bergen County All-Star selection. Studevan earned four varsity letters and was an Inter-League Coaches Academic Team choice.
In the battle to dominate F&M’s lineup, the sophomores are running slightly ahead of the seniors. Nine members of the class of 2012 are slated for a starting spot, while seven members of the class of 2010 will hold a position on opening day. Five juniors will start with one freshman slated to go.
The Diplomats face another ODAC opponent in Catholic University. It will be F&M’s home opener. The game will mark the last time F&M will play two non-conference opponents in the regular season as Susquehanna is set to join the Centennial as an associate member for football in 2010.
trox on the record
about surprises in camp…
“We had two players that turned our heads during camp on the defensive side of the ball. Freshman linebacker, Sam Massaro is one of them. We expected him to be a player, but he is way ahead of the curve physically. When he adjusts to the mental side of the game, watch out. We were also pleasantly surprised by C.T. Marsh’s camp. He came back to campus in tremendous physical shape and his knowledge of all four positions gives us the flexibility to use him anywhere along the line.”
about newcomers who might make an impact…
“Massaro is going to be out there on day one as a starter. He is going to help us out right away. Jacob Kelly, from San Diego, had a nice preseason and is going to give us another speed threat at running back.”
about key injuries…
“We got through camp pretty healthy, not much beyond the usual bumps, bruises and strains. We did lose Jonathan Struss – freshman/RB who we thought would be able to help us out early.”
about the generals…
“Frank Miriello runs a nice program with good kids. They smacked us around pretty good down there on our last visit in 2007, so we know we need to be ready for a physical football game from the opening kickoff.”