Lycoming wraps up spring

The wind whistled, the kind of wind which finds a way to penetrate any layer of clothing you can put on. It felt like late October on Sunday afternoon at David Person Field.

It was football weather. It made sense the Lycoming College football team was on the field honing its craft. The conditions were far from ideal, but there’s work to be done for the Warriors.

Lycoming is nearly finished with its 16 organized spring workouts its using to set the tone for when fall camp begins. There’s no helmets or pads used during spring ball in Division III, so head coach Mike Clark and his coaching staff do the best they can.

Yesterday, it meant the line went through technique drills, refining its footwork and using blocking shields to simulate actual football gameplay. It’s not the same as real practice, but with contact outlawed at this level in spring ball, it’ll have to do.

The defense, too, goes through the motions of blitz packages and standard defensive formations, understanding its responsibilities for when the 7-on-7 portion of practice begins.

The kicking crew stands on the sidelines waiting for its 10 or 15 minutes of special teams time. They stretch, they talk, they wait.

The only work which looks like actual football comes from the offensive skill players. Receivers and run routes and catch the ball. Running backs get looks from the offensive line for gaps to run through. And three players in red jerseys throw every kind of pass imaginable.

Elisiah Bayne is the only of the three quarterbacks who was on the roster as a quarterback in the fall. Chase Snavely is a January transfer from Lock Haven who is just learning the offense. And Christoff Minott is making the transition to quarterback after appearing in six games as a receiver last year.

The conditions for football practice were not ideal Sunday. But it didn’t make the work being done any less important.

“While we may be really slowed down, you can still be really improved,” Clark said. “There’s still fundamental things we can be improving on. As hard as it is to practice here physically, we need to improve mentally. The nucleus of the team is already here, so these guys need to know what they’re doing for fall camp.”

There’s as much positivity surrounding this incarnation of the Lycoming football team as there has been in years. It’s derived from a frustrating, but optimistic, fall in which the Warriors finished 4-6, but lost four games by six points or fewer.

The returning nucleus of players working through spring ball is described by its own players as being as tight-knit a team as they can ever remember. Cliques have fallen by the wayside for players spending time with any and everybody.

Ninety players took part in a recent trip to Jim Thorpe for a paintball outing which spanned an entire day and left the coaches and players trading barbs on social media.

“I’ve never seen this team this close,” defensive tackle Ahmad Curtis said. “When I first came here, everyone had their groups. Now we’re all one big family. Everyone hangs out with each other. Everyone talks to each other. Even the coaches are all one big family.”

Clark speaks glowingly of the collection of returning starters. The defensive front seven has the potential to be one of the best collection of defensive players Clark and his staff have had in 10 years. The corps of receivers and running backs, and the move of Mike Mulvihill to tight end, has a play-caller like Clark licking his chops.

But then there’s the quarterback position. For the third time in four seasons, Lycoming will be going into fall camp unsure of who the team’s starting quarterback is going to be. Chase Whiteman won a three-player battle for the job in 2015 and spent two years as the Warriors’ starter. Chase Williams made the move back to quarterback from receiver a year ago and was the team’s starter for a season.

Now Bayne, Minott and Snavely are battling for the job. Bayne was a two-year starter at Reading High School where he ran for more than 1,000 yards in his two years and led the Red Knights to their first winning season in 11 years.

Minott, as a senior at Upper Darby, threw for more than 1,600 yards and ran for 600 more before moving to receiver when he came to Lycoming.

Snavely completed more than 60 percent of his passes, throwing for more than 2,200 yards and 25 touchdowns as he led Middletown to the state final in 2016.

For now, Clark is looking for the three quarterbacks to absorb as much information as they can about the offense. He’s looking for them to make the right decisions as to where and when to throw the football. The time will come when he has to make a decision about who his quarterback will be, but it’s not today.

“You want to see who has a good grasp of what we’re trying to do,” Clark said. “First and foremost, it’s the mental part of the game. Then you want to see who takes charge and can be a good leader. As we get into some more situational football in the summer, you’ll want to see who can really make good decisions and move the ball and ultimately who can score points.”