With 21 new players on the roster, football looks forward to an exciting spring season

Craig Barbaro

Although it seems like ages since the Lafayette football team was last on the field, the team has had a lot going on since the end of the 2019 season. The team is set to take the field for their first game of the 2021 season in one short month against Colgate, squaring off in the first of four games that will determine whether or not they have the opportunity to compete for a Patriot League Championship on April 17th.

The Leopards abbreviated season begins on March 13th and ends no later than April 17th, with games being played on four consecutive weekends after which the league will take a one week break for makeup games before the Patriot League Championship on April 17th. 

Although the season is much shorter than a typical season, the Leopards are heading into the spring with a lot of optimism and high spirits. 

“Considering that we did not play in the fall, a lot of the guys are excited to get back on the field,” said Lafayette’s star junior defensive end Malik Hamm. “We have not been able to see each other as a whole in a year so practice has had a lot of energy.”

Hamm has not missed a beat since the 2019 fall season was canceled. Coming off a year in which he was named Patriot League Defensive player of the year, he is looking to take it up a notch before his senior season. 

“My personal goal is to win,” said Hamm. “This includes winning a championship, a ring, along with All-American Status. This year I want to really take the next step into being a more dominant player.”

One of the key developments for the Leopards that may make their road to a Patriot League title more difficult was the transfer of star quarterback Keegan Shoemaker last semester. Shoemaker burst onto the scene last year, his freshmen year, after being given a chance to play in Week 2. As a freshman, Shoemaker started 11 of 12 games, threw for 2,540 yards with 14 passing touchdowns en route to winning numerous team and league honors. 

Shoemaker’s highlight reel season included a nine-play 50-yard drive against rival Lehigh which culminated in a last second field goal to give the Leopards the 17-16 win. Shoemaker was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year, team MVP, along with a myriad of other accomplishments. 

Shoemaker committed to Sam Houston State University in his home state of Texas on December 10, 2020. 

“Keegan’s transfer did not really affect us much other than the fact there will be a quarterback competition in the spring and in the fall,” said head coach John Garrett. “We thank Keegan for his contributions but we believe we can have a team that can compete for Patriot League Championships with the quarterbacks we have on our roster now. We have two veteran quarterbacks who have started and been successful in the past. We also have younger quarterbacks who we feel are talented and could use this opportunity to prove themselves. Not to mention we have an incoming quarterback, Ah-Shaun Davis, who will compete for the quarterback position in the fall.”

Another major development for the Leopards was National Signing Day, which occurred on February 3. The Leopards added six more players on Feb. 3 which brings the total to 21 news players on the roster, having added 15 players on the early signing day in December.

“We feel really good about the talent we brought in the two signing days,” Garrett said. “We believe this class is impressive because of not only the football talent it has but also the personal character it boasts. Half of the incoming players are team captains and two of the incoming players are two-time team captains. Most players are coming from high school programs with rich football history and two of the players won state championships this past season. These athletes are also highly versatile. Many of them can play both sides of the ball and were two sports athletes with a family history of collegiate level athletes.”

“With the onset of Covid, our mentality has been that whoever handles this adversity and responds the right way will have the advantage when we take the field this spring,” Garrett added. Our guys have focused on what we get to do and have been all the right things all along.”