To say there will be changes to the Lions’ football team this year would be an understatement. The team has replaced its head coach, starting quarterback, running back and other key seniors as it looks to put together a winning season.
The biggest change, of course, has come from the top, after head coach Eric Hamilton stepped down in July after 37 years of coaching the Lions. He is being replaced by interim head coach Wayne Dickens, who most recently spent four years as the head coach of Kentucky State University. He has also coached at all levels of college football and the Canadian Football League.
After finishing 4-6 overall last season and 3-5 in the NJAC, the Lions hope that new additions will lead to more victories. With the graduation of quarterback Dan Dugan, Dickers has yet to decide who will take over at the center of the offense, with sophomores Chris Spellman and Sam Paladino as the best candidates.
“Spellman and Paladino are both doing a great job on taking on a leadership role of the offense and doing what is asked,” senior wide receiver Fred Sprengel said. “So whoever takes over should do great.”
The Lions also lost last season’s top rusher, Justin Doniloski, so sophomore running back Victor Scalici and junior running back Brad Young will form a two-headed monster on the ground. Scalici totaled 309 yards and three scores last season, and he’s looking to break out big time for the College.
“Between Victor, Brad and (the) other backs, our offense can be exciting this season,” Sprengel said. “If Vic runs strong like last season, no doubt in my mind it could be a break-out year.”
Aside from Sprengel, the main receiving targets last season — Glenn Grainger and Matt Rosati — are gone. Now, the downfield arsenal will feature senior wide receiver Kevin Barry and senior tight end Ryan Baranowsky. The talent and veteran leadership from the trio hope to build on what was a potent offense last season.
“We will be successful this season through the air with help through our run game,” Sprengel said. “If we establish a solid running game, we will be able to open up the defense with a good passing game.”
On the other side of the ball, stud senior linebacker Nick Bricker returns to anchor the team’s defense. Bricker was second on the team in tackles last season with 97 and has earned NJAC First Team honors the past two seasons, as well as being a Third Team All-American by d3football.com.
Despite the loss of leading tackler Greg Burns, Bricker is confident the defense will be rock solid.
“I am definitely excited for the upcoming season,” Bricker said. “Our defense is looking solid. We have some great returners and very talented new guys that will make for a dynamic defense.”
Senior linebacker Sean Clark and senior defensive back Matt Chierici return as key pieces to the defense. The duo had five combined interceptions last year, giving the Lions huge plays and momentum shifts throughout games. The team will be looking to make a priority on forcing turnovers.
With a favorable schedule, a scrimmage under their belts and a fresh start, these Lions are ready to roll. Captains Sprengel, Bricker, senior defensive lineman Patrick Kimball and senior offensive lineman Chris McLaughlin have been leading the team in the preseason and have everyone working their hardest for the upcoming season.
“Our offense seems to be clicking and, as for our defense, the experienced players have improved from last year and the new guys are getting better every day,” Bricker said. “Overall, I have confidence in our team and am looking forward to a successful year and working hard toward an NJAC championship.”