Mercyhurst Lakers (4-7, 2-5 PSAC West)
Season Opener: Thursday, August 30 @ Notre Dame College (GLIAC)
Offensive/Defensive Starters Returning: 7/5
Key Returnees: QB Antony Vendemia (Jr.), LB Kevin Williams (Sr.)
When senior quarterback Trevor Rearick suffered a career-ending injury against cross-town rival Gannon, the chances of the Lakers repeating as PSAC champions plummeted in dramatic fashion. The loss to Gannon began a five game losing streak which saw the Lakers blow fourth quarter leads in four of those games.
Junior quarterback Anthony Vendemia struggled during that stretch, throwing 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. With more consistent training during spring practice and the pre-season, expectations are high on East 38th Street that Vendemia will bounce back with a consistent full season at the helm of the offense.
Vendemia is one of seven returning starters for Mercyhurst, including the reigning PSAC West Offensive Freshman of the Year Richie Sanders, Jr., who led the team with 532 rushing yards. Senior Paris Bruner is expected to lead a wide receiver corps which needs to recover from the graduation of Trevor Kennedy. Junior center Steve Reinhardt and senior left tackle Kevin Poropat are the lone returnees to the offensive line.
There are also holes which need to be filled on defense as well, as just five starters from last season return this season. Junior nose guard Dustin Galich and senior defensive end Brad Weisenseel anchor the defensive front.
Junior safety/linebacker Mike Brown is one of three defensive backs returning to anchor the defensive backfield. Seniors Linnell Robinson and L.J. Stevens are expected to help solidify the defensive back position.
But, the big holes which need to be filled for the Lakers on defense are the linebackers, hit by the graduations of Ian Wild and Kevin Williams. Senior Nick Jackson finished third on the team with 64 tackles, while a pair of sophomores Aaron McGee and Garrett Wild – are expected to see significant time for the Lakers this season.
PREDICTION: With the caliber of talent which graduated, it’s too early to tell which version of the Lake Show will show up this season. Will it be the 2010 team which dominated the PSAC West on its way to a PSAC championship? Or will it be the 2011 version which couldn’t hold on to a lead late in games? A relatively easy start to the season, which includes Notre Dame (Ohio), Millersville, Clarion, Cheyney and Lock Haven, could see Mercyhurst open the season 5-1, or even 6-0 if they can beat Slippery Rock in Week 5. Whether such success could be sustained remains to be seen.