2011 Football Preview

2011 Football Preview

2011 Roster | 2011 Schedule

Forgive John Troxell if he believes he is playing with house money this year, but for the first time in five years, Troxell has a squad with depth at every position. Depth that will lead to competitiveness and help keep the team healthy all season.  Depth, combined with 15 returning starters, ten of which have started for three or more years, has expectations high in Lancaster this year.  

 "I think the goals for the season here are high amongst our kids, our staff and our alumni," Troxell said. "I think the expectation is that we can compete with anyone."

The 2011 Diplomats roster of 81 players, the largest in the Troxell era, features 15 seniors this season.  The team has a chance to accomplish a feat that has not been achieved in Lancaster for over two decades – three winning seasons in a row.

If expectations are high, it might have to do with the fact that F&M returns six starters on offense and nine on the defensive side.  John Harrison returns behind three-fifths of his offensive line and is joined by a returning backfield. The senior has already cemented his name all over the school's record book.

Harrison has completed 684 passes in his career, 205 more than any previous Diplomats passer. His 7,325 yards are 1,694 more than the next closest F&M quarterback, while his 74 passing touchdowns give him 22 more than anyone in F&M history. He completed 67.6 percent of his 407 passes for 2,872 yards and 28 touchdowns a year ago. His performance earned him a spot on the Centennial Conference (CC) second team last season and a spot on the D3 Senior Classic Pre Season All-American Team.

Sophomore E.J. Schneider and freshman Sam Kind will provide depth at quarterback.

"Those two give us as much talent and depth at the QB spot since I've been here," noted Troxell. "I think E.J. will push John in camp this preseason."

Backfield mates John Kaschak and Peter Gumas return.  Kaschak, a three-year starter, ran for 713 yards with 57 catches and hit pay dirt eight times last season. He needs just 108 rushing yards to become the third Diplomat to reach 2,000 in a career. The senior is three rushing touchdowns away from tying Ted D'Amico '75 for the second most rushing touchdown in school history at 21. Kaschak is also a threat out of the backfield. He was third on the team with 57 receptions and 475 yards in 2010 and ranks in the top ten in receptions at F&M.

Sophomore Frank Strumolo will battle with four freshmen for playing time in the backfield. Dominick Hezekiah, Scott LaValva, Lamont Jackson and Mark Casale bring speed and versatility to the table.

"The biggest question this season is at wide receiver and tight end," said Troxell.  "That doesn't mean we do not have guys who can compete or perform, I just think it's the position where we lost a lot of productivity."

Three of Harrison's top four targets are gone with Jay Ridinger and Michael Deutch graduating. The pair accounted for 141 receptions and 1,432 yards last season.

"Wide receiver will be the biggest battle in camp," says Troxell.

Tim Muller and Alan Williams, a converted tailback, are the likely favorites at the slot position. Colton Weaver should challenge for a spot on the two-deep as well. A handful of sophomores and two freshmen will look to get their feet wet come mid-August.  

Brian Kelly and Joe Goggin will be tasked with replacing Deutch at tight end. Kelly hauled in nine passes last season while Goggin was used primarily for his run blocking skills. Freshman Andrew Martinez should also contribute.

Troxell is excited about the potential of the offensive line this season.   

"In terms of talent, size and ability, this line has the potential to be one of the better groups since I've been here."

Three starters return up front this season. Nick Tucciarone returns at center, flanked by Nick Gerace and Sami Caygoz. Gerace earned All-CC second team honors a year ago.  The group helped clear the way for 323 points and 1,046 yards on the ground. Conner Spellman, Sam Wojciechowski and Sam Dickinson will compete for the two open spots.

The biggest question a year ago on defense is the Diplomats strength this season. F&M returns all four starters in the secondary, highlighted by All-CC second teamer Kurt Rogers who will anchor the defensive backfield. Rogers broke up seven passes and his 37 solo stops were fifth on the team in 2010. He is joined by fellow returning starter Phil Barbieri. Barbieri had a team-best four picks with 51 total tackles. Chris DeStefano saw time last season and will provide depth this year.

Ty Savastio and Jonathan Struss return at the corners. Savastio, a two-year starter, had six pass break-ups and two picks, while Struss brings two years of experience and a team-high eight pass breakups to the table. Scott Williams, Aaron Fant and Jordan Blair will compete at the cornerback position and could see some meaningful time.

"I feel pretty confident going into this year that teams will have a hard time throwing the ball on us," said Troxell.

What really gets the staff excited this season is the defensive line.

"We should have one of the better defensive lines in the league this year," Troxell says.

F&M returns the most dominant defensive end in the conference with two-year starter C.T. Marsh.  Marsh made his first All-CC appearance a year ago. The senior recorded at least a half sack in each of F&M's final nine games of the regular season, and finished the year with 11 total. Marsh was second on the team in tackles with 57 stops, including 40 solo tackles. His 21 tackles for a loss were the best on the team. He also broke up a pass, forced and recovered a fumble and blocked two kicks. Marsh earned preseason All-American status from D3 Classic.

Kenny Provost returns at nose guard for the third straight year. Provost proved to be a hard man to block with 28 tackles, seven for a loss, last season. There is an abundance of depth at the other end position. John Gandolfo, Mark Palmer, Chad Tothero, Lou Chubinishvili, Jordan Studevan and Kyle Wengerter will all battle for the open spot. All five guys will have a chance to start, while the others will provide the line with the fresh legs its needs to be successful.

Adding to the excitement on the defensive side of the ball is the fact that F&M returns three starters at the linebacker positions.

Returning in the middle are Sam Massaro and Nick Barbieri.  Massaro, an All-CC first team selection, had a team-high 95 tackles, including 52 solo stops. Three of his seven tackles for losses were sacks. He intercepted three passes, all against Susquehanna, broke up a pair, forced two fumbles, recovered one, and blocked a kick.

Barbieri's 53 tackles were third on the team last season.  The sophomore had three tackles for a loss, one of which was a sack. John Stark, J.R. Recchia and Brandon Low will help keep the middle fresh this year.

Three-year starter Don Wiezik returns at outside linebacker.  Wiezik had 53 tackles with 2.5 sacks. He will be joined by Troy Harrison on the short side of the field. Brendan Wengerter, a transfer from Layfette, and Mike Shin will be on the open side.

Junior Devin Hunter and sophomore Chris DeStefano return in the kicking game. Hunter averaged 37.2 yards a punt, placing five inside the 20. DeStefano was 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts, including the game-winner against McDaniel.  Chris Bennett will also battle for place kicking duties.

Struss and Williams shared kickoff return duties last year. Those two will be joined by freshmen Jordan Zachary, Paul McGann Aaron Fant and Jordan Blair. All four have great speed according to Troxell.

F&M was picked to finish fourth in the Centennial Conference preseason poll. It will be a tough road to travel early for F&M this season. The Diplomats opened up the season at No. 19 and reigning ODAC Champion Washington & Lee.  They will open the conference portion of their schedule against two of the top three teams from 2010, Muhlenberg and Ursinus.

All home football games will be broadcasted live for free on Stretch Internet, F&M's broadband partner on the web.