Lafayette’s spring football game draws over 1,000 fans
After playing for Phillipsburg High School in one of the biggest school football games in the nation every Thanksgiving, John Troxell has seen his share of big crowds at Lafayette College’s Fisher Stadium.
Saturday’s crowd for Troxell’s Maroon-White first game of the spring as the Leopards head coach was far from what the Stateliners and Red Rovers attract every Turkey Day morning.
But it featured more than 1,000 fans, which was far more than the team generated in the recent past, and it was more than Lehigh’s rival for its Spring Finals a week earlier.
The larger-than-expected audience testifies to the enthusiasm Troxell has generated at College Hill since being hired at December brought him back to campus where he played and served as an assistant coach.
Now the challenge will be to bring more fans to games in the fall and bring them home with winning football.
Lafayette showed flashes of what was to come on Saturday in a session that lasted less than two hours and was designed as a 50-game controlled scrum consisting of situational workouts.
“I was happy because we came out of it pretty healthy, which is always the first goal,” Troxell said. “Then we got to see guys compete and [wide receiver] Carl Smith did some good things and we moved the ball around a bit. But defensively, some guys stepped in and made big plays when we got into the red zone. So it was a good opportunity to get a lot of guys on tape and see where we really are.
Troxell, who went 92-67 in 16 seasons at Franklin & Marshall, inherited a program after a 3-8 season. And while the offense showed flashes earlier, particularly in a 42-41 loss to Fordham, the Leopards have scored just 33 points in their last three games – all losses.
After a lot of shakeups in the first month of the season, Ah-Shaun Davis moved into quarterback as a rookie and had his share of positive moments.
He still made good throws on Saturday, but so did juniors Rent Montie and Aaron Angelos. All three threw touchdown passes.
“All three guys did some really good things,” Troxell said. “Competition breeds success. When you have guys competing for a position, it raises everyone’s level of play and that’s what we’re trying to build here. We try to have competition in as many places as possible because then they know they have to keep working and improving.
Davis said there is still a lot of work to do.
“Even though spring is over, we are just beginning,” he said. “We have a few hours left in the weight room and before you know it, we’re going to be back here this summer and working to get that Patriot League championship. The new technical staff trust me and they will put me in the best possible position. I feel comfortable to start the season and we will give everything. »
Asked to sum up the new scheme put in place by new offensive coordinator TJ DiMuzio, Davis said, “Get the ball out quick. These are fast reads and many RPOs. It was a good ride. I will continue to learn and enjoy this over the summer.
Eight starters return on both sides of the ball, and of the seven returning Patriot League all-league players, four are on defense.
Malik Hamm, who has been in all leagues four times in his career on the defensive line, is excited to play for Troxell and new defensive coordinator Mike Saint Germain.
“I love Coach Troxell,” Hamm said. “I feel like he brings new energy to the team, and that’s what we need. I feel like we can become a winning team if we just trust the process and what it tells us. Often, at the end of the spring ball, we want to say that it’s the end of something, but for me, it’s only the beginning. We will now enter the offseason and start preparing for September 3. I’m ready to go for a Patriot League championship.
Hamm said it was no longer about turning the corner or making progress.
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“We are not just here to ride at the back of the peloton or take the bus; we want to win games,” Hamm said. “This school means a lot to us and the team means a lot to the fans. We want to get wins to show them how much we care, how hard we’ve worked and how much we love this school. All the fans here today are a testament to Coach Trox and how excited people are to see what he can do.
Senior linebacker Marco Olivas, another all-league first-team pick, agreed there’s a positive new vibe around the program.
“Change is hard and difficult at first, but you adapt and you start talking to these guys. [the new coaches] and go up to them and you’ll find out they’re great guys,” Olivas said. “They want to be here. They want to succeed. They want to win and they are there for us and they want to put us in position to succeed and win.
Olivas will disagree with anyone who suggests the 2022 season will be a rebuilding year, as Lafayette strives for his first title-winning season since going 8-3 in 2009.
“We are ready to change and start winning fast,” Olivas said. “We want to win and we want to win now. We have the coaches, we have the talent, we have the systems to win now. I can’t wait to win in the fall. We play Temple at the Linc [Sept. 10] and it’s gonna be fun. I’m not trying to hang on. I’m looking to win in Philadelphia.
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