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Nick Shafnisky Is Pushing Hard to Get To Play at the Next Level in Football

"Don't take anything for granted, just keep pushing."
Those are the words of QB Nick Shafnisky, told to The Whitehall-Coplay Press all the way back in 2013, about his preparation as a high school athlete.
And they seem to summarize the Whitehall, PA native perfectly, then as now.
Dubbed the "Male Athlete of the Year" by that publication, the article goes on about Shaf's many exploits at Whitehall high school - leading the Zephyr football team to a co-Lehigh Valley Conference title, becoming the first player ever in that conference to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards, and earning the league's co-MVP award as well.
He also was a member of the Zephyrs playoff basketball team, and for good measure also helped set a record for the 4x100 relay team as well.
At Whitehall, and at Lehigh, coaches pushed him, but it was his own hard work that helped make him the best athlete he could be.
This weekend, Shaf, like every eligible college football player, will be …

Lehigh Offense Continues To Impress During Spring Game, Win 48-34

Some spring games are loaded with drama as to who might be rising into starting positions.

On Lehigh's offense, which boasts a backup quarterback-turned-starter that threw for 1,000 yards last year, a 1,000 yard rusher, and two of the Top 10 receivers in all of FCS, drama for starting positions was, shall we way, lacking.

Instead, the scrimmage became a show as to what Lehigh fans might be able to hope to see in Setpember, a reminder of all the good things that may be in store.

In that sense, even though they started out slow, junior QB Brad Mayes, junior RB Dominick Bragalone, senior WR Troy Pelletier and senior WR Gatlin Casey showed that they indeed still knew how to play some football.

They all came to play, and in the process gave Lehigh fans a taste of an offense that has the potential to be special yet again.

Despite 48-34 Win By Offense In Brown and White Game, Lots to Like From Defense

Many will look at the spring game final results and stats and see that the offense "won" this Saturday's Brown/White game, 48-34.

They'll see a stat sheet they might expect from a Mountain Hawk team: 121 yards passing from junior QB Brad Mayes, touchdown receptions from senior WR Troy Pelletier and senior WR Gatlin Casey, as well as a touchdown run by junior RB Dominick Bragalone.

But that doesn't tell the full story of the game, played on a wet Saturday morning under mostly overcast skies.

In the early portion of the scrimmage, the Brown defense racked up sacks, tipped passes and shut out the White offense for nearly an hour before Mayes would finally find Casey in the end zone.

If there was any question how the new four-man defensive front might work out for the Mountain Hawks, they were answered today with a solid performance early.

QUICK RECAP: Offense Prevails In Brown/White Game, 48-34

It was good to see some football in Murray Goodman stadium today.

Battling raindrops under an overcast, spring sky, Lehigh's offense (the White team) won the "official" game, 48-34 over the Lehigh defense (the Brown team), using a modified scoring system.

But the spring practice was defined by the early statement of the defense, with a big interception by junior CB Donavon Harris and a slew of tipped balls by the Mountain Hawks' experienced defensive front.

Eventually, though, the offense would settle down, and junior QB Brad Mayes and his backup, senior QB Matt Timochenko, would start to make hay and put touchdowns on the scoreboard.

Junior WR Cam Richardson, who won the Jim Gum scholarship award before the game, made much of his opportunity working alongside senior WR Gatlin Casey and senior WR Troy Pelletier with the first-string offense.  The Northwestern Lehigh product caught 4 balls for 60 yards, and was a frequent target of Mayes and Timochenko.

Tune in later …

LFN's Look at the Spring Offense and Special Teams

(Photo Credit: The Morning Call)

Going to practice this Wednesday, I wondered how things were going with the Mountain Hawks this spring.

You never really know what to expect until you go, and on a surprisingly chilly evening, I arrived up at Lehigh's practice fields.

A lot of times at practice you hear jeremiads from the coaching staff on "spirited competition" and competing for positions.  But you don't always see it on the practice field.

On Wednesday, though, it was there.  I saw it.

Maybe it's a product of a lot of players knowing where they fit on the team, and that's certainly what is my impression in regards to the Lehigh offense.

When you have returning all-Patriot League players at running back, wide receiver, and the offensive line, that's one level of comfort.  When you have a returning quarterback that started three games, including an FCS playoff game, and led an 63-35 win over Yale with 524 yards passing, that's yet another level of co…

LFN's Look at the Spring Defense

Last season, a disappointed LB Colton Caslow talked about the Lehigh defense after a top 26-21 loss to nationally-ranked Villanova.

Caslow, LB Pierce Ripanti and LB Evan Harvey had combined for 27 tackles against the Wildcats, but it wasn't enough to spring the upset.

"None of those plays I made would have been possible if I didn't have the fantastic teammates I have around me out there," he said after the game.  "Everyone's just been flying around, we're getting all eleven players to the ball, everyone has a lot higher energy out there, and we're in a lot better shape than we were last year."
Caslow's disappointment would be the last time he'd experience that emotion after a regular-season football game, as Lehigh then proceeded to win their next nine games and the Patriot League championship.  Caslow, and the defense, never averted their focus and improvement from that point forward.

This weekend at the Brown/White spring scrimmage, w…

Curley, Schultz and Spanier May Serve Time in Jail in Penn State Scandal, But it Doesn't Feel Like Enough

Finally, I hoped, some justice would prevail.

It had been 19 years since the then-President of Penn State, Graham Spanier, had emails hit his inbox that Gerald Sandusky was being investigated about an incident involving Sandusky and a child in the showers in Penn State's Lasch building.

Already a former Penn State athletic director, Tim Curley, and former Penn State legal counsel, Gary Schultz, had pleaded guilty for the lesser charge against them - endangering the welfare of children - to avoid the spectacle of a public trial.

But Spanier didn't shrink from the public trial, instead choosing to fight his way in court that he was innocent - that the reams of information unearthed by Louis Freeh's report were wrong about his involvement with Sandusky's crimes.

Late on Friday afternoon, on a day of many other news events and distractions, the verdict was in: Spanier was found guilty of the same crimes for which Curley and Schultz pleaded guilt last week - endangering …

Position Switches Something To Watch In Lehigh's Spring Session

Probably the biggest news from the first few days of spring practice is a few changes on the depth chart that may not seem that important at first, but could pay off later this fall.

It's the switch of rising senior Marc Raye-Redmond to the offensive side of the ball, and rising junior Nick Thevaganayam to the defense.

Raye-Redmond last season played mostly on special teams, and was listed as a defensive back.  In his role on special teams, Marc excelled, not only notching 12 tackles but also getting 184 return yards alongside rising senior WR Gatlin Casey on kickoffs.  Against Princeton last year, he had two returns for 49 yards.

Thevaganayam also mostly appeared on special teams, rushing the ball a couple of times, but was buried on the depth chart behind junior RB Dominick Bragalone, junior RB Micco Brisker and senior RB Nana Amankwah-Ayeh.


Lehigh's 2017 Spring Season To Feature Continuity On Offense And Special Teams, Even With Different Coaches

(Photo Credit: Gaby Morera/The Brown and White)

There's a lot of excitement in Lehigh Nation about the upcoming spring football season as the Mountain Hawks look to defend their Patriot League Championship.

Some things will be very familiar: watching RB Dominick Bragalone running the football, WR Gatlin Casey and WR Troy Pelletier catching them, and C Brandon Short anchoring the offensive line.  Even Lehigh's quarterback, QB Brad Mayes, will be a very familiar face, considering that he's already spent a lot of time on the field the last two years.

But elsewhere, there's a lot of newness - as is common for many FCS programs this time of year.

The departure of offensive coordinator Drew Folmar (Elon), special teams coach Ryan Dougherty (Oklahoma) and running backs coach Jamel Mutunga (Princeton) has meant some promotions and new faces on the coaching staff.

So this Spring, in defense of their Patriot League Championship, what's in store?  Start off with some staff p…

Seven Positive Thoughts About All the Patriot League Recruiting Classes

It's recruiting season.  Every incoming recruit is a Patriot League all-star, everyone is a first team all-American, everyone is undefeated.  It's all good times, a chance for kids to be admitted to some of the best Universities in the world.  In that, it's a win for everyone.

While we wait for each of the remaining recruits to be announced as a part of their recruiting classes, I thought I'd comb through all of the incoming classes of the Patriot League and tell you what sticks out to me.

This summart isn't a ratings-based system, than folks like 247Sports have in terms of measuring the number of "starred recruits" (they list Holy Cross as the "winner"), or even a hybrid-based system, like LFN's yearly Patsy Ratings (last seasons "winner": Lehigh) or HERO Sports' list of the top overall FCS recruits (which lists Lafayette as the "winner").  It's just one guy, looking at the recruit lists, and giving his opinion.

Why Just Sticking To Sports Will Never Work

One of the hottest topics in the sportswriting niche of the world has been the following online debate, kicked off by Bryan Curtis over at The Ringer.  The name of his piece was "The End of 'Stick to Sports'", and it was a thinkpiece that truly got writing minds thinking.  "Sportswriters have been awakened by Donald Trump’s presidency," the byline read.  "Is that what their readers want?"

It's had an interesting effect on the entire sportswriting community - a response veering from general agreement, to "we never really did stick to sports anyway" and "I will always stick to sports and let others talk about politics."

What it isn't is cut and dry.  I think the problem with this so-called "debate" is that it attempts to make sportswriting into a binary choice - either you stick to sports or you have your sports explore other topics.

Art is not a series of binary choices, and if you agree sportswriting is a for…

Lehigh's 2017 Recruitment Class Big on Championships and Big on Versatility

(Photo Credit: Dan Gleiter/PennLive)

Head coach Andy Coen came into the conference room at Taylor Gym with a broad smile on his face - the type of face that comes from winning a Patriot League Championship last year, of course, but also the type of face that comes from a man quite happy with his incoming recruiting class.

The fifteen names in the incoming class, "with four extra guys to announce later [on]", Coen said, seemed to fill Lehigh's needs, the fifth consecutive year that Lehigh has been recruiting with the same type of  scholarships as the rest of FCS.

"We had to shore up some depth, we really had to get a little bit of everything," he said.  "We graduated a lot of guys in the secondary, so it was important to get a good group there this year, and I think we did that."

Four defensive backs were announced today as being a part of the incoming class, DB Divine Buckrham, DB Tre Cundiff, DB Tre Neal, and DB Jaylen Floyd.

"The four defensiv…

Recruit Q+A With DB Divine Buckrham

In the run-up to signing day, I caught up with a few of the new recruits to ask them about their recruiting stories and their high school football career.

Today our subject is DB Divine Buckrham, who competed at The Kiski School, which is based just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.

The Kiski School is an all boys, small, private school with an enrollment of 210 students.

Despite its small size, it has a long, storied history of football, too.

"From the early 1950's to the present, it is well documented that Kiski has fielded teams deep in football lore and history," Kiski's team website says. "Many of the country's greatest football players of the time started their careers at Kiski."

Situated not far from State College, PA, Kiski graduates include QB Darryl Clark and RB Curtis Enis, two names which should be well known to Nittany Lions fans.


The 2017 Pre-Signing Day Big Board for Lehigh

With a little over a week to signing day, the incoming football class of 2021 is in real focus.

I'm always hesitant to jump the gun on verbals to Lehigh.  I've been around this long enough to realize that commitments can change.

But I've also found that when you get this close to signing day, you've got a fairly good picture as to what the class looks like.

All verbals are considered "verbals" and are very much unofficial until signing day, but many student-athletes have tweeted their commitments and their tweets are included below.

So a week before signing day, here's some information as to what we know here at LFN about the incoming class.

(A huge thank-you to Rich Heelan and Todd Cuddington, who have done a great job as they always do tracking recruits.  Their constantly-updated spreadsheet is here.)

Story Of Philadephia Eagles' 1968 Mud Bowl Parallels 2016 Election

How do you write about sports when it doesn't feel like a game anymore?
This is the crux of the question I've been struggling with over the last few weeks.

Like many of you, I was shocked at the election of Donald Trump to become our next President.  Also like many of you, I paid as he did things differently when it came to talking about the political foes he defeated, how he went about assembling a cabinet, and how he engaged the press.

Everything about this point in time in history feels historic.  No set of Americans have ever elected someone like Donald Trump as President.  Nobody, not Trump of the mobs of Twitter people that seem to follow him, have used Twitter to attack people so directly almost like a weapon, especially focused at journalists that are trying to get at the truth.

Frankly, nobody knows what's coming next.

So how do you write about sports at a time like this?  How do you compartmentalize what you're feeling about the election, and crack open the…