“Next man in”

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Prior to being injured, Tanner Kern ‘19 (far right) prepares to line up with his teammates. [Photo courtesy Hana Isihara ‘17]

Rachel Robertson

Leopards struggle with injury-plagued season

Out of the scrum and mess of bodies that follows the snap came a sight that has come to define the Lafayette football season.

Laid out on the turf and cradling his leg, athletic trainers sprinting to his side, freshman center Tanner Kern was hurt. And his injury was not one that could just be cured by rubbing some dirton it.

Propped up on two athletic trainers and eventually needing the assistance of two fellow linemen, the 6-3, 315 pound blocking machine struggled to make his way off the field before being carted to the field house for x-rays.

Unfortunately for the Leopards, this has been quite the common sight in a lackluster 2015 season. Long-term and season-ending injuries to players such as sophomore Phillip Parham, juniors Connor Staudle, Tim Vangelas and Draeland James, as well as seniors Nick Zataveski, Chris Brockman, Dan Dellovade, David Miller and Steve Mercado have left an already young and relatively inexperienced team even more so.

Coach Frank Tavani and the rest of the Leopardscoaching staff have been forced to make changes and call on players to step into roles they are not yet ready to take on or have never encountered before.

Senior Matt Anderson, a career defensive lineman, has switched sides of scrimmage to become an offensive lineman for the first time ever, to bolster a depleted O-line. When the injuries started to pile up earlier in the season, Tavani said that a few young players were deer in the headlightswhen called in to action much earlier than expected in their budding college careers.

While Lafayettes 1-5 record reflects the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the team against a schedule that includes three ranked teams, the injuries have been an unexpected hindrance contributing to the Leopards struggles this season.

Were a good football team,said Harvard coach Tim Murphy following his teams 42-0 trouncing of Lafayette over Homecoming Weekend. But they are a really banged up team. Theyve had as many injuries as any Division I team Ive see in a long time. That certainly was a critical factor in the game.

With as physical a game that football is, injuries are inevitable. But the quantity and severity of those this season are unusual according to sophomore lineman Cam Smith.

People are trying to fight through smaller injuries but we have a lot of people with injuries that theres nothing you can do about,Smith said. Its just a numbers game. The more people you get hurt the more reps everyone else has to take and it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy with injuries.

The results of the season have been frustrating but the team continues to put their best cleat forward both in practice and in the game.

Our men continue to work extremely hard in practice and have energy,Tavani said. No ones out there moping around or feeling sorry for themselves. Nobody is looking for any sympathy.

And when the next player comes down with injury or a starter cant return by the next game, Tavani knows what his teams response will be.

Next man in,” he said.