Freshman Stankiewicz playing big for Warriors

Don’t misjudge Matt Stankiewicz’s quiet nature. And definitely don’t misjudge the Lycoming defensive lineman’s clean-cut nature.

That’s who the freshman is before he puts on his football pads. After his helmet gets strapped up, though, he’s a different person. It’s how he’s gone from a recruit hoping he would be good enough to make the travel roster to becoming a starter on the Warriors’ defensive line.

If he had been told in August Stankiewicz’s production would be what it has been this year, Warriors coach Mike Clark wouldn’t have believed you. But the 11th-year leader of Lycoming understands Stankiewicz’s importance to a strong defensive line.

“He’s good with his hands. Smart. Not a giant, but great quickness and a good understanding of the scheme. I think it’s a really good combination,” Clark said. “He’s really good fundamentally and I think all those things are part of the reason he’s played so well. And he plays hard. All those things add up.”

Stankiewicz doesn’t come from a traditional high school football power. A Mid Valley graduate, Stankiewicz was his senior class president who was a standout for a Spartans team which didn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs either of his final two seasons in high school.

But he was also a player who was a freshman starter for Mid Valley on the defensive line. He also played for head coach Dave Rebar, who played defensive line at Syracuse in the mid-1990s. And much of the technique he learned from his high school coach has helped Stankiewicz be a productive member of Lycoming’s stout defensive front.

Stankiewicz enters Saturday’s crucial Middle Atlantic Conference game against nationally-ranked Delaware Valley leading the Warriors with three sacks and second with 3 1/2 tackles for loss. Not only has he been an integral edge-rusher, but he’s spent some time at defensive tackle as well.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Stankiewicz said. “Everything is clicking. The technique here is almost the same from back home, so that definitely helped me. The seniors and older kids helped me a lot with technique and form. I was hoping to travel with the team this year, but this is way more than what I expected.”

When Stankiewicz arrived on campus, a friend of his on the team told him to watch and follow the lead of senior Sam Romanofsky. A year ago he was one of the best in the conference at making plays in the backfield. Stankiewicz has made a point to try and pick his brain about how to go about his business. He’s also learned by watching how Romanofsky prepares.

It’s helped make Stankiewicz one of the top 10 leaders in sacks in the MAC this season. It’s helped him pick up on the nuances of playing the position at the college level. And it’s made him a reliable piece of a defensive line which needed a boost in depth when Kyle Pierce began working on the offensive line.

“It took me a little bit to pick up on everything,” Stankiewicz said. “But throughout camp I put my nose in the playbook and I picked up most of it.”

Stankiewicz is coming off the best game of his season two weeks ago in a loss to King’s. It was a bittersweet moment for him because the Warriors didn’t get the win it so wanted. But he was ecstatic to put together a performance which included eight tackles, two tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks.

“Matt was a guy we thought was good. I don’t know if we thought he would be this good, or that he would be able to play end and tackle,” Clark said. “We’re thrilled with what he’s done, but I would have have believed (in August) he’s making the contribution he’s making right now.”