LANCASTER, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall starts its 129th football season on Saturday when the Diplomats host Lebanon Valley at 1:00 p.m. on Sponaugle-Williamson Field. F&M features a roster of 22 seniors and welcomes back 16 starters from the 2015 squad that finished at 6-4. That, combined with a talented freshmen class, has expectation high in Lancaster.
Click here to watch the season preview video with head coach John Troxell.
Below is a positional break down of the F&M roster. Click here to watch the video roster.
Key Returners: Tanner Erisman (So.)
Sophomore Tanner Erisman gets the opening-day start at quarterback after a long battle in camp with junior Zachary Bradley. Erisman played in five games in 2015 and finished the year with 609 yards on 36 completions with five scores. Bradley played in four contests and threw for 175 yards on 21 completions.
Senior Dave Shellhammer joins junior Taalib Gerald at tailback. Shellhammer racked up 497 yards on 129 carries with four touchdowns last year. He added another 93 yards on 11 receptions. Gerald started the year on fire with 322 yards in four games, but his season was cut short because of an injury.
F&M has it's most depth at the receiver position with seniors Andrew DeStefano and Bobby Keyes leading the way. DeStefano led the team with 593 yards on 40 grabs and two scores while Keyes finished 2015 with 38 catches for 579 yards and five scores. Adding to the depth are seniors Joshua Young and Steven DeLosa along with juniors Dillon Alderfer and Fortunato Perri. Sophomore A.J. Pretty will see significant time as well.
Key Returners: Craig Hamilton (Sr.)
Seniors Mark Opaliski (center), Matt Hlavinka (left guard) and Michael Realbuto (right tackle) return to anchor the offensive line. Last season the group helped pave the way for 1,687 yards on the ground and finished seven games with giving up one sack or less which led to Opaliski earning All-CC Honorable Mention from his center position. Freshmen Aiden Kenny and Brian Denoncour will split time at left tackle, while junior A.J. Gasser will hold down the right guard position.
Senior Jon Naji joins junior Mike Sullivan on the defensive line. Both started in every game last season. Naji had a team-high four sacks and finished the season with 36 tackles, including seven for a loss. Sullivan recorded three sacks, two fumble recoveries and totaled 20 tackles in 2015.
Sophomore Joe Granahan gets the nod at defensive end while Brendan Kilkenny will start at tackle. Seniors Tom Lyster and Tyler Petri will be joined by sophomores Thomas Hourican and John Limato in the rotation as well.
Key Returner: Luke Foukas (Sr.)
Senior Luke Foukas will start for the third consecutive year at outside linebacker. Foukas was second on the team with 54 tackles last season after starting in all 10 games. He had 8.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and recovered two fumbles in 2015. Sophomore Vincent Speranza will contribute early and looks to make an immediate impact at the position.
Key Returner: Ben Okun (Jr.)
Junior Ben Okun returns at corner after seeing action in every game last season and finishing third on the team with 52 tackles. He recorded four pass breakups, two interceptions and ended the year with 3.5 tackles for a loss.
Senior Brendan Daly and junior Vincent Moffett will anchor the secondary from their safety positions. Daly started in all 10 games last year and led the team with 64 tackles, including six that went for a loss. He broke up nine passes and picked off two balls last season.
Moffett returns at the other safety position after earning Second Team All-CC honors last year. The junior recorded 51 tackles while forcing a team-high four fumbles last season. He had four pass break-ups and finished five games with five or more stops.
Seniors Cody Hubbs and Billy Zwicharowski will start for the third consecutive year this season. Hubbs will look to improve upon his 37.5-yard punting average in 2015. He placed 21 balls inside the 20 and tallied a long punt of 52 yards. Hubbs will also take over the kickoff duties after averaging 47.6 a year ago. Zwicharowski connected on 7-of-8 field goals in 2015, hitting 5-for-5 inside the 30 and going 19-for-22 on point after attempts.
The Road Ahead
For the third consecutive season, football kicks off its schedule against Lebanon Valley with the 2016 opener taking place at home on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 1:00 p.m. The Diplomats take to the road the following weekend for F&M's conference opener against Muhlenberg on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 1:00 p.m.
Homecoming & Family Weekend will feature a matchup against McDaniel on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Sponaugle-Williamson Field with a 1:00 p.m. kickoff. The annual Battle of the Wagon against Dickinson (Oct. 1) and the Lincoln Trophy Game against Gettysburg (Nov. 12) will each take place on the road, with the matchup versus the Bullets bringing a close to the regular season.
A continued feature to this year's schedule is the "Add to Calendar" button, which allows fans to sync new events and updates directly in their Google, Exchange, Yahoo, Outlook, ICal and additional calendars.
Look for the icon below, which can be accessed at the top-right of the 2015 football schedule when viewed on your computer, or bottom-left of all schedules on your mobile device.
Follow Along (Social Media)
All of your favorite Diplomat athletic teams are available on social media. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram, like them on Facebook and subscribe to the Diplomats YouTube page for frequent highlight videos of games throughout the season.