The Mercyhurst football team took the field Sunday, April 24, for their first full padded live scrimmage of the spring.
The Lakers were full of enthusiasm for their first opportunity at live contact; even the quarterbacks were fair game.
The scrimmage was the first of two leading up to the Laker Spring Game which takes place Saturday, May 7, at noon.
Among those to receive first reps for the offense were junior running back Drew Robinson and to-be third year starter at center, sophomore Beau Bilinsky. Robinson was a PSAC West second team selection and ECAC Division II All-Star in 2014. Bilinsky is the center of a young group that mostly saw starting reps in 2015, with the off-season only bringing the departure of one senior offensive lineman, Jordan Farrow.
“The most important thing for the young guys is spring ball. I tell them definitely don’t get discouraged if you’re not on a first team. You’re going to get as many reps as the first team players, it’s all evaluation,” said Bilinsky. “The young guys need to prove themselves now so they can set a standard for themselves in the fall.”
The offense also returns redshirt junior running back Richie Sanders. Sanders was a second team selection as a return specialist in 2015 and received first team honors in 2011 along with the PSAC West Freshman of the Year award.
The competition for quarterback is open with three contenders; redshirt junior transfer from IUP, Logan Weaver, sophomore Ramroth Finnegan, and freshman Doug Altavilla. Weaver took the most snaps under center in 2015, seeing time towards the end of the season after injuries to Brendan Boylan and Zach Emerick.
The defensive side of the ball returns a little more experience with to-be senior leadership on the defensive line and at linebacker. Juniors Benji Abercrombie and Ryan Carroll return on the defensive line, having started every game for the Lakers in 2015.
Returning linebackers are redshirt juniors Bruno Natter and Nick Slonack. Slonack started all 11 games in 2014, finishing second on the team in tackles for loss, but missed much of the 2015 season with a shoulder injury.
The Laker’s special teams will return junior kicker and punter Dylan Kondis. Kondis was a second team All-PSAC selection and Don Hansen Super Region third team honoree last season.
The spring game is what sets the tone for the off-season and can decide who gets the reps when players report back for camp in August. The out-of-season full-padded practices are also an opportunity for players to earn respect amongt one another, something that Carroll says is key to success in season.
“Hard work gets noticed around here. I think if you work hard and stick to it, you gain respect, and that’s the quickest way to the field and to earning your teammates trust,” said Carroll. “You can talk all this business but if you don’t get it done on the field it really means nothing. If as a team we can get it done on the field first, the camaraderie will come naturally.”