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Sunday's Word: Scout

(Photo Credit: Backpacking Light)

In the dream, it's night time, and I'm alone, awake, on the campsite.

I don't know if it's in Yellowstone, the Pine Barrens, Lake Nockamixon, or simply some composite sketch of campsites I've experienced over the years, but it's far away from indoor plumbing and what passes for civilization these days.

The fire crackles in the background with a brilliant, moonless night as the backdrop.  Strange, sultry forest noises surround me, the only audience within miles.

In the dream, it's only me - a cub "scout", a boy "scout", or a "scout" master, I'm not sure which - that's awake on the entire campsite.

It's my watch to make sure everything is OK.

There's a hint of snoring noises everywhere, all the other folks in tents, asleep, secure in the thought that should anything happen, the night watchman - me - will keep everyone safe.

And in the dream, I'm absolutely terrified.

Next to the fire, my back to a tree, I take a look at what I have to protect the campers, the people in my care. 

A BB gun - unloaded - with a tiny can of BBs next to it.  Some flares.  A large walking stick.  Some hardened S'Mores.  A fishing rod.  And old walkman.  And that's it.

My mind races.  What if someone, or something, attacks us?  Weren't there bear sightings around here in Camp Yellowbanixon last week?  Were they Grizzlies?  Didn't they eat that guy and that girl who were simply minding their own business, hiking down the trail in the height of the day?

I feel comically ill-prepared.  Shouldn't I have known what I needed to do, I think? Why didn't I get, say, a proper double-barreled shotgun, or bear spray?  At first, I blame myself for not being ready.

My eyes dart around, and I see trash everywhere.  Grizzly snacktime, I think to myself, as the wind rustles the trees around us.   Or was it the wind?

Then, I blame everyone else.  Leaving all this trash around, and then not leaving me the tools I need to protect this place, I think. Why, they knew I would need to attack a bear.  They're practically inviting it!

I try to distract myself with the walkman.  Pushing "play" on the tape, something warbles out.  It's low on batteries.  I can't make out the song.

But then I notice a slow rumble in the trees surrounding the campsite. Just as I feared... the grizzly bear is here, eating the garbage, pawing at some uneaten burgers.

The campers blur, and then it changes.  My family.  My son.  They're in the path of the Grizzly.  I do the only thing I can do, and that's throw a stale S'More at the Grizzly and have it go after me.

I run, keeping everyone safe... and then I awake, with no sheets covering me, and a way-too-early morning sun greeting my watery eyes.

*****

The "scout"'s motto is to always be prepared, but to link this back to Lehigh, the Mountain Hawks are also going to be starting their preparations for the 2012 football season.

With this new group, the good news is that they can look to the two classes before them for inspiration as to how to go forward.

If you're an incoming freshman or underclassman, you could do worse than to look at the examples of OL Will Rackley or LB Mike Groome when it came to work ethic.

And it's clear spending any length of time with senior WR Ryan Spadola and senior DT Sajjad Chagani, two of Lehigh's team captains in 2012, slacking isn't a part of their vocabulary.

But still, you wonder.

Three years ago, Lehigh was coming off a 4-7 season that was one Lafayette overtime victory away from being one of the more disastrous in recent memory.

Going into that camp, every last player was hungry to put that season in the past and to forge a new reality for Lehigh.  Sure, it felt good to beat "that school in Easton" twice.  But 5-6 and 4-7 were not where Lehigh wanted to be.

"That 2009 season was pretty heartbreaking," Spadola said at Patriot League Media Day. "We don't want to have that happen again."

To a person, every player that year had counted as friends and teammates that senior class that had lost four straight to Lafayette, and they made a vow that they would do what it take to ensure that it never happened to them.  Focus at camp was at a level not seen before, and even in that year's media day there were hints that there was a new level of commitment.

Foast forward to 2012, and  Lehigh is coming from a very different place.

You can sense from everyone in the Lehigh camp that while they're optimistic about the upcoming season, they're at great pains to emphasize the amount of hard work it's going to take to do what no Lehigh football team has ever been able to do: win three straight Patriot League championships.

"This year's motto is REAL, which stands for Relentless Effort, Achieve Legacy", Chagani told me during Patriot League Media day this past week.  "We don't want to the team to get complacent, or lackadaisical.  Our class, the senior class, is the only class at Lehigh right now that understands how it feels to be a 4-7 football team and to lose six games by a touchdown or less.  It's the littlest details that are the difference from being the No. 5 team in the nation or not going to the playoffs."

Yet to the underclassmen, the talk of seniors losing for straight to Lafayette must seem like just so many ghost stories.

Yet in ways, winning this year will be harder than the last two years.

Aside from the obvious - the graduation of such critical pieces of the team in QB Chris Lum, LB Mike Groome, WR Jake Drwal, OL Keith Schauder - is the sheer scale of the task of the three-peat.

To put the scale of their task in perspective, Lehigh has only three-peated twice in their 128 year history, back when they were in the three-team "Middle Three" conference (along with Lafayette and Rutgers).

And the two times they did it, in 1950-52 and 1969-71, the championships were not outright.  Both contain a co-championship.

If this year's Mountain Hawks do win three outright championships, it will be the first time in Lehigh football history it's ever been done at South Mountain.

"We're in the position to do something that's very challenging, which is to win three years in a row," head coach Andy Coen said to Lehigh's media crew on media day.  "which was been done by very few programs at any level.  We're not in a position this time where we're trying to prove people wrong.  We're trying to prove people right."

The senior class seems to get that - but do the juniors, the sophomores, the incoming freshmen, realize the huge difference between the two?

More than anything, it's the speed at which the underclassmen are able to establish what it takes to win that will determine the success or failure of the 2012 season.

And it's something that will be have to start to be measured 35 days from now when Lehigh opens the season against Monmouth.

Let's just hope our team of "scouts" will be ready with a lot more that stale s'mores and BB guns.

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