Written by: William Albright on Friday, August 24th, 2012
WesternPAFootball.net Senior Writer
LOCK HAVEN — Every football team has its goals entering a season and for the Lock Haven University Bald Eagles, there are many of them heading into the 2012 campaign.
However, maybe first and foremost is to not live in or dwell on the past, but rather to concentrate on being positive and move forward.
“This team has worked extremely hard the past year, they really have,” said LHU head coach John Allen. “We had a really good off-season and learned more about playing the game. They did a good job in their off-season training and came to camp in very good shape. We are looking forward to it. We aren’t looking back at all because it is a new season with a new squad and as far as I am concerned, the sky is the limit.”
The Bald Eagles will return 38 letterwinners, a group that includes 18 starters, seven on offense, ten on defense and one on special teams.
“That is a good group to start the season with and most of those starters are young starters who will be around for a couple more years,” Allen said. “We have thirteen seniors and they will give us really good leadership. It is really nice to have a larger senior group than we had in the past and we are also looking for some good things from our junior group as well. Between those two groups, we have some kids who should be ready to take over this football team.”
When the Bald Eagles have the ball, they will count on the arm of redshirt senior quarterback Jarrett Kratzer and the legs of redshirt junior running back Brandon Brader for leadership to be able to move the ball and put points on the board.
During the past two seasons, Kratzer found himself in somewhat of a state of limbo as far as a starter was concerned. Now the veteran signal-caller on the squad, it appears going into the 2012 campaign that manning the position as starting quarterback is his to lose, rather than him having to win the spot.
“I wouldn’t say the pressure is off, but I feel much more relaxed and confident than in the past two years,” said Kratzer. “Coming in labeled as the number one guy I have my own expectations and I am just ready to get out there and get started. This is the best I have felt since I have been here (at LHU) as far as confidence is concerned and I am just ready to go. I feel good about it.”
One of the problem areas for the Bald Eagle offense in the past several years has been the inability to keep drives alive, especially when reaching the red zone. Kratzer feels this season will be different.
“Basically that starts here in practice,” he said. “The more consistent we are in practice, the more consistent we are in a game. In some of the previous years, it seemed as we (offense) would ‘take off” a play or two here and there and that would cost us. This year we are focusing on keeping everybody going all the time, putting those 10-yard gains together to get into the end zone. Hopefully the excitement we have right now will translate into putting up more points when we reach the red zone.”
One year ago, Brader rushed for 942 yards, the most for a LHU running back since former Williamsport Millionaire running back Jamie Allen lugged the pigskin for 962 yards in 1999.
“What I try to do is bring energy to the team,” said Brader. “I am not one to be all about myself, but if I can bust a run here and another one there, hopefully this year some of them will wind up in the end zone. Last year I can remember where we were in the red zone four or five times in several games and couldn’t punch one in. Being good between the twenties will only get you so far, so what I am going to try and good is bring that excitement to the team and let the rest fall in place.”
Brader feels good about the offensive line he will be running behind this season.
“We are basically bringing everyone back on the line and that is good,” said Brader. “I have a lot of faith in them because they know what I can do and I know what they can do and that just adds more fire to what we have going for us. We have a lot of depth this year and that means we can keep those guys fresh. We had our ups and downs last year, but now being with them again, although I can’t read their minds, I have a good idea of what their strengths are and where they are headed when a play develops.”
Providing the space for Brader and others to run will be a veteran offensive line as the Bald Eagles return senior Kurt Ledebur at center, sophomore Bradin Carter and redshirt senior Jonathan Engroff at tackles, junior Anthony Herko at guard and redshirt junior Jerome Charles at tight end.
“You get a chance to hit someone on every play and you get to love it,” said Herko about working in the trenches. “When you get a chance to see your teammates succeed it makes it all worthwhile. I have trained hard in the off-season and right now, I am just ready to get back out there and play the game.”
Just as it is with quarterback, receivers and running backs, Herko was quick to point out that chemistry among the linemen is also important, knowing what the guy next to you is capable of doing.
“I think it is very important to have that chemistry with the other guys on the line,” Herko said. “I know I played with Kurt Ledebur at center last year and now this year as well. Jon Engroff and I just feel that we are so comfortable working with each other. We make our own calls, we know our stunts as to which way we are going to go and that makes a big difference in opening holes for the backs to run through.”
On defense, LHU will count on veterans up front in defensive tackle Skyler Wool and defensive end Ben Snyder to lead the way while trying to keep opponents from dominating the game by controlling the ball. Overall, the Bald Eagles return ten of 11 starters on the defensive side of the ball.
Snyder will begin his final season as a LHU gridder, and the former West Perry standout reflects on what his role of being a team leader means to him.
“I’m excited and honored to be one of the senior leaders of this team,” said Snyder. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to lead this team. We have a lot of talent and our team morale is high. Everyone is on board right now and we all want it. I think we can make something special happen this season”.
While Snyder reflected on his role as a team leader, former Jersey Shore Bulldog standout Wool offered his view of the rebuilding process and the overall growth of the Bald Eagle squad.
“Since Coach Allen came in last year, he and his coaching staff have done a great job of taking the pieces that we already had and putting them into their correct places,” says Wool. “All of our players seem to have a confidence in themselves and in our schemes that we’ve never had before. In the past, some of the players doubted themselves in what they could do, but that is no longer the case. This is my fifth year now with the team and I can honestly say that we’ve never had a better opportunity to compete then we do this year.”
Joining Snyder and Wool up front for the Crimson & White will be another pair of starters from the 2011 squad in sophomore Janosch Beauchamp and junior nose tackle Zach Edelheiser. Toss into the mix a trio of starting linebackers in redshirt sophomore Matt Kirchner along with seniors James Goins and Ryan Good, and you have a front seven with a lot of experience.
The Bald Eagles also return three of four in the secondary as redshirt sophomore Tyrai Anderson returns at cornerback as does Marc Olivo at safety. Ray Mosby, who was a starter one year ago at safety, has been moved to cornerback.
Special teams can also play an important role in the success or failure of a team, and in that department, the Bald Eagles are going to count on former Central Mountain kicker Noah Heimer to get the job done.
“Heimer is a good kicker and we are looking for some big things from him,” Allen said. “We have some good kids as possibilities for our return teams like Mike Williams and Bernie Smack. We are going to take a hard look at those two kids along with some others. Now we have to get to work with them, get them some reps and see what they can do.”
The Bald Eagles open the 2012 campaign in Brooklyn, NY, when they face the Fordham Rams, a Division I opponent on August 30. Kickoff for that fray is set for 7 p.m.
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