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Bialkowski and Kurfis Ready To Step Into Big Shoes

(Photo Credit: Brent Hugo/Lehigh Sports via the Morning Call)

Being a new Lehigh quarterback or wide receiver is no easy task.

Your athletic director, Joe Sterrett, is a former star quarterback for Lehigh.   Think he's invested in the program?

Your receivers coach, Dave Cecchini, was a star member of head coach Hank Small's "Air Lehigh" teams of the early 1990s.  Now he works every day with members of the offense.

Your recently graduated receiver, WR Ryan Spadola, will be lining up for the NFL's New York Jets on Sunday.

Every day each Lehigh quarterback and receiver sees Lehigh Hall of Famers all over the place - something that might be intimidating to some.

But not senior QB Brandon Bialkowski and senior WR Lee Kurfis.  They clearly embrace challenge of stepping into those shoes.

When I asked Brandon what we should expect this Saturday in his first ever start, he responded simply.  "Expect Air Lehigh to be back," he said.


This weekend, Kurfis will be Bialkowski's go-to receiver - the X receiver in Cecchini's potent offensive system.

It's a spot Lee's familiar with.

He lined up in the X in order to spell Ryan Spadola when the New York Jet had to sit on the sidelines to catch his breath, or fill in when Ryan was unavailable.

"Whenever Ryan was unable to play it was always a bitter sweet feeling for me," he told me.  "It's always a set back for an offense when one of your best players goes down but it also gives other guys a chance to fill in and prove themselves.

"Although I did play on the other side of Ryan for two years, the X receiver position is what I initially played when I came in as a freshman, so really whenever I was put there I was exited about it because its where I really felt the most comfortable on the field. For me, it really came down to handling the pressure of being the go-to guy. Games like [the FCS playoff game against] North Dakota State and Georgetown were extremely important games for my development because I was able to prove that I could indeed be that guy."

Kurfis against FCS champions North Dakota State really stepped up, taking a beating from one of the best defenses at the FCS level in one of the toughest places to play in the country, the FargoDome.

Taking the tough passes over the middle that Ryan usually took, he finished with 2 catches for 48 yards but with valuable experience that Lee will take into this season.

Lee can't wait to get out there this Saturday.

"To be honest, I didn't like missing the first week of play one bit," he said.  "I felt really anxious all weekend watching any kind of football because I felt like I was being left out of the action. We did get a chance to watch our opponent Central Connecticut State for a bit, but we didn't watch any other Patriot League teams play - we will worry about them when the time comes.

"This Saturday I want to show the crowd and all Lehigh football fans that Lehigh football is still Lehigh football even with all of the new faces. Ultimately I want to come out and get a strong team win to start this season off on the right foot."

He also has a lot of confidence in his staring quarterback.

"I don't believe there will be any set backs or adjustment time at all with him," he said.  "Brandon is a very smart kid and he has confidence in his abilities. Everyone always comes into the first game with a little nervousness, but I really believe that this offense is going to be firing on all cylinders right from the get go with Brandon in the drivers seat."

For Bialkowski, this Saturday's start will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

"It feels great to finally have the opportunity to contribute at this level," he told me.  "It has been a dream of mine to play Division I football since I was five. It has taken a lot of patience in the last three years but now I am ready to step up and seize the opportunity in front of me."

It wasn't easy for Brandon to finally work his way up the depth chart behind a Walter Payton Award finalist (QB Chris Lum) and a quarterback that rallied his team to a 10-1 record (QB Michael Colvin).

"Chris and Mike have taught me so much throughout the years and I am very grateful to have had the chance to learn from them," he said.  "They both brought different strengths to the table and I can attribute some of my growth as a QB to them. It takes a while to pick up the whole offensive system and one of my strengths on the field is the ability to dissect defenses."

Another person grateful for Brandon's continued development through camp was head coach Andy Coen.

"I'm very happy for Brandon, he's shown himself to be our starting quarterback," he said in the Lehigh Football Report this week.  "Brandon is very smart, Brandon is very athletic, and we have a lot of confidence with him running the offense."

The senior from Gilbert, Arizona will be a new look for the Lehigh offense simple by virtue of the fact that he's a lefty.  He's been noted to have good accuracy in camp, but also isn't a prototypical pocket passer, either, showing good mobility.

"I pride myself on accuracy," he said.  "My arm strength has improved greatly even from the spring, and it has shown in the ability to complete more deep balls. I am more of a lead by example guy on the field, but I believe that people gravitate towards me as a leader and I am ready to lead the team."

His family will be coming up to see him more for games this season - though not entirely for the reason you might think.

"My brother is a linebacker for Gilbert high school, and her tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in a scrimmage a week before his senior season," he said.

Brandon has already dedicated his season to his brother as he rehabs.

"I have become very close with my brother over the years and I know he looks up to me," he said.  "It is an honor to play for him.He was getting many looks from FCS programs and was eventually going to get offers. He is still hearing from a few of those schools and hopefully one of them gives him a chance."

It's not easy being a quarterback or wide receiver at Lehigh, with all the history and success others have had at the position.

Bialkowski and Kurfis embrace the challenge to try to be the next great ones - which starts this weekend.

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