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Monmouth At Lehigh Game Narratives: Expect A Close Game

We break down Monnmoth after the flip.

Going into the first game of the season there are oodles of storylines on both teams.

One important storyline from Monmouth coming from Hawks coach Kevin Callahan is that Monmouth has a brutal eight road games in the 2016 season, thanks to construction being done on their home field, Monmouth Stadium.

With all the focus on defense in the run-up to this game, senior OL Zach Duffy also talked a bit about that the offense is raring to go as well.

"It's the most productive camp I've been in the past four years I've been here,, he told Keith Groller of The Morning Call.  "We were put in a position to get a lot of good [strength and conditioning] work in.   We have a lot of experience with a lot of guys returning and that's especially important up front where we have three guys returning including myself.   And then we have junior WR Troy Pelletier, Shaf [senior QB Nick Shafnisky] and sophomore RB Dom Bragalone. I think we're in a really good spot entering Week 1. A lot of that has to do with the work we put in during the offseason. We didn't want to be happy with how last year ended and we didn't want to get complacent. We put in a lot of hard work and stayed motivated and I think that says a lot about the leadership we have on this team."

Both sides are keenly aware that the last three games in this series have come down to the final quarter.

"The games have all gone to the fourth quarter," Callahan said.  "There have been games determined by the last possession, and I would think this year would be a similar type game.  I think our guys are ready for that type of contest, I know our guys are working really hard and are excited about the opportunity, and I think it's going to be a great game on Saturday."

Head coach Andy Coen also holds plenty of respect for the Jersey Hawks as well.

"Monmouth plays a spread style offense," he said in the Lehigh Football report, "and our secondary is definitely going to get stressed.  They have a veteran quarterback, his 3rd year in a starter, very athletic, he can escape and run like Shaf.  Two excellent wide receivers, an outstanding tailback, there's tremendous skill in the Big South.  On offense, we want to establish the run, and Monmouth will want to stop the run."

Coen also said a point of emphasis was protecting the football on offense too.

"What we didn't do very well last year is protect the football," he said.  "We spent a lot of time every practice with a ball disruption drill and a ball security drill.  It's really been burned into their minds that it's important to create turnovers and take care the football.  I'm going to be very upset if those things don't work out for us in Week 1."

"They're such a dynamic offense," Callahan said of Lehigh.  "They've got weapons everywhere you look on the offensive side, and the challenge is not overplaying one aspect of their offense and giving up a big play in another area, and being sound in what you do."

There's another big narrative heading into the weekend: senior QB Nick Shafnisky's final season on South Mountain, the latest of a series of great local area quarterbacks coming to Lehigh over the decades.
"I personally love it," Shafnisky said. "My dad talks about it all the time, obviously you got more attention being local. ... I love that my best friends can come back and see me play a game or two before my career is over, whenever it is." 
Quarterbacks typically get all the credit after wins and all the blame after losses. That may be magnified when playing in your backyard, but head coach Andy Coen believes the pressure is good for his quarterback. 
"I think he thrives on it," Coen said. "Nick's the type of guy that if you say, 'I can throw the ball the ball and hit it there,' he's like, 'Well I can throw it further and more precisely.' He's just that type of guy. He's always going to be that way."


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