Lyco DE as good as advertised

His first step was lightning quick and the left tackle in his face never got a hand on him. Sam Romanofsky looked destined for another face-to-face meeting with a quarterback.

Then he threw on the breaks and worked back tow­ard the line of scrimmage. He saw the underneath drag route developing and he was ready for it. As FDU-Florham’s Michael Pan­zarino caught the ball, Romanofsky put his facemask in Panzarino’s stomach and lifted the receiver off the ground before burying him into the David Person Field turf.

Romanofsky’s numbers would suggest he’s a pass-rush specialist. He’s tied for second in the Middle Atlantic Conference in sacks with 5 1/2, but Romanofsky is a complete player.

The Lycoming junior has been exactly what his high school coach Joe Gallagher said he was capable of being when he told Warriors head coach Mike Clark about him some four years ago. His breakout junior season has coincided with a strong performance by the Lycoming defense this year, especially during the current three-game winning streak it carries into today’s game at Widener.

“He’s always been talented,” Clark said. “He’s an incredibly hard worker. He played some last year and had a nice year. He’s relentless and he cares and he’s talented. He’s starting to figure it out.”

That one play late in Lycoming’s win last week over FDU epitomized what Romanofsky is all about. He’s quietly been Lyco­ming’s best pass-rusher this year. But he knows he can’t rely on just being that.

Romanofsky wants to be a three-down player. He wants to be as much a threat against the run — or in this case, the short passing game — as he is against the pass. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Romanofsky has the size to be stout against the run game. It’s a part of his game he takes a tremendous amount of pride in because he knows without the ability to slow the run, there’s no opportunity to rush the passer.

“You have to stop the run to make them pass,” Romanofsky said. “They’re not going to pass the ball if they can just run it down your throat.”

“He’s going to keep getting better. We’re excited,” Clark said. “Right now, he’s our best end. He’s good against the run. He’s a very complete football player. His high school coach spoke very highly of him and raved about him and he wasn’t wrong. He’s a tough kid.”

Romanofsky was one of three players Clark recruited out of Haverford High School to be part of the 2015 recruiting class. The other two players, Nick Costello and John Kim, have been consistent performers as receivers for the Warriors since arriving on campus.

Gallagher, the head coach at Haverford for more than 20 years, has always been good with Clark when it comes to recruits. Clark can count on him to be honest with him about his players.

Clark and Gallagher, who played college football at the University of Tennessee in the late 1970s, are both graduates of the now defunct St. James High School in Philadel­phia. Former Lycoming all-MAC defensive back Mike Gentile was also a Haverford graduate.

“He’ll tell you the truth and he’s usually right,” Clark said. “If Gall says, ‘Clarky, I’m telling you,’ then you know to listen.”

And so far, he’s been right on all three of his former players who have come to Williamsport to join the Lycoming football team. Costello leads the Warriors in receptions, yards and touchdowns. And then there’s Romanofsky.

A year ago he established himself as a potential difference-maker for Lycoming. He played in all 10 games, recording 30 tackles, three sacks and 4 1/2 tackles for loss.

He’s already surpassed those numbers through just six games this year with his 5 1/2 sacks and 6 1/2 tackles for loss. Not bad for a player who was a significant contributor at Haverford on the offensive side of the ball as a tight end and a receiver.

In fact, Romanofsky figured his future was going to be on the offensive side of the ball until Clark recruited him to play defense. He’s been able to expand his repertoire of pass-rush moves this year working with defensive coordinator Steve Wiser and defensive line coach Steve Radocaj.

He got to work on those moves in the spring when Lycoming traveled to Canada for an exhibition game. Romanofsky said that was a big part of making him a better pass-rusher. He’s less predictable off the ball, and Radocaj helped him work on being quicker off the ball.

“It’s so important that they don’t know what you’re going to do,” Romanofsky said. “Mixing it up makes them think. When they’re thinking too much, it’s easier to hit a big move.”

“We say it all the time that the expectation is for the position, not the player. And it’s true, but you still want guys who are capable of being all-conference players,” Clark said. “We can’t say what Sam does is the expectation, because that’s not really fair. The players know who’s good, the coaches know who’s good. You have to find ways to deal with those guys. You can choose to say he’s not that good and we don’t have to do anything special for him, but more often than not, you’d be wrong.”