LANCASTER, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall is slated to kick off the 2013 football campaign Sept. 7 at Washington & Lee. With eight players returning on offense and five on defense, F&M is poised to make a run for its first Centennial Conference (CC) title since 2004.
To watch the season preview video for the 2013 F&M football team, click here.
The 2013 Diplomats
F&M registered its third winning season in four years with a 7-4 record last year, including a late season win over CC Champion Johns Hopkins, and finished third in the conference standings. The Diplomats return 29 lettermen for the 2013 season with 19 players on the roster that started in at least half the games last year.
To take a look at last year's statistics, click here.Offense Returning Starters QB: E.J. Schneider, Sr. RB: Lamont Jackson, Jr. RB: Frank Strumolo, Sr. WR: Tim Muller, Sr. WR: Jordan Zackery, Jr. RG: Sam Dickinson, Sr. LG: Chad Tothero, Sr. RT: Ryan Ignatovig, So.
The strength of the Diplomats coming into the season is the offense. F&M returns eight starters and two key contributors on the offensive side of the ball that averaged over 410 yards per game in 2012. Leading the group is senior quarterback E.J. Schneider who led the CC with a 148.177 pass efficiency rating. Schneider tossed for 2,832 yards with 25 touchdowns and added another 453 yards on the ground with five scores on his way to being named First Team All-CC.
If the Diplomats want to continue putting up large numbers on offense they will need a strong supporting cast to compliment Schneider. All three starting receivers return and three more return to the backfield. Leading the way is First Team All-CC pick Jordan Zackery at receiver. Zackery (74 rec., 598 yd.) is joined by Tim Muller (64, 785) and Paul McGann (47, 830), all three started in every contest last year.
Frank Strumolo and Lamont Jackson return to the backfield with Scott LaValva looking to add valuable touches as well. Strumolo (577) and Jackson (473) combined for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns while LaValva added 201 yards for the Diplomats last year.
Looking to pave the way for the running backs and give Schneider time in the pocket is the offensive line led by guards Chad Tothero and Sam Dickinson with Ryan Ignatovig taking over at the right tackle spot. Sophomore Matthew Piscarcik along with juniors Vincent Acosta and Frank Seitz will look to fill the other spots on the line.Defense Returning Starters LB: Brendan Wengerter, Sr. LB: Ryan Young, Jr. CB: Aaron Fant, Jr. DB: Chris DeStefano, Sr. DB: Brian Velasco, Jr.
Last year's strength is this year's biggest question with the departure of three All-Conference players on the defensive side, including the entire defensive line. F&M is strong in the secondary and up the middle with three defensive backs and two linebackers returning.
Brendan Wengerter (33 tackles) and Ryan Young return at linebacker and will be joined senior John Stark while DeStefano (38) will move from the secondary to outside linebacker. Senior Tyler Pollick and freshman Steven Elf add depth inside while senior Chase Andreassi and freshman Matt McLaughlin will compete for snaps at linebacker.
Brian Velasco headlines the secondary unit this season. Velasco led the team with 69 stops and earned a spot on the All-CC Second Team. Ryan Feulner, who started the last six games in 2012, will hold the other safety position. He is joined by cornerback Aaron Fant (42), while Paul McGann, Tre Henderson and Jordan Blair are still battling for the other spot.PK: Chris DeStefano, Sr. PR/KR: Jordan Zachery, Jr.
DeStefano returns as the placekicker for F&M. The senior hit 33-of-40 PATs last year and went 2-for-5 on field goal attempts. However, there is competition for the kicking and punting duties between Chris Bennett, who handled kickoffs last season, Connor Ryan and Cody Hubbs. Zachery will resume return duties on both kickoffs and punts this season. The junior racked up 248 yards on punt returns and added another 288 on kick returns.
The Road Ahead
After starting the season Sept. 7 at W&L, the Diplomats return to Lancaster on Sept. 14 for their home and CC opener against Muhlenberg. F&M will square off against Dickinson for Homecoming on Oct. 5 with the coveted Wagon Trophy on the line before going on the road for two games. A Nov. 2 showdown with Susquehanna at home sets up the final two regular season games of the year. The Diplomats visit Baltimore on Nov. 9 to face CC Champion Johns Hopkins before returning home for the regular season finale against Gettysburg. This season is the last year F&M will start with W&L as Lebanon Valley is scheduled for the season opener the next two years.
F&M claimed the second spot in the 2013 CC Preseason Poll while Johns Hopkins was picked as the preseason favorite in a poll of head coaches and athletic communication directors.
The Blue Jays, who won their seventh Centennial title last year, picked up 17 of a possible 20 first-place votes for 161 points. F&M was second in the balloting with three first-place nods and 139 points, while Ursinus was slotted for the No. 3 position with 122 points.
Follow Along (Social Media)
All of your favorite Diplomat athletic teams are available on social media. Follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook and subscribe to the Diplomats Youtube page for frequent highlight videos of games throughout the season.