Thursday, November 10, 2016

Leopards-Raiders notebook: Adam Bridgeforth and more

Colgate's Adam Bridgeforth (21) makes one of his two interceptions against Cornell.
Photo courtesy Colgate University.
Adam Bridgeforth looked anything but happy about his first day of preseason football camp at Colgate in August. In fact, Raiders’ head coach Dan Hunt thought the talented cornerback appeared teary-eyed.

“I thought he was crying because he didn’t think he’d be able to perform, but it turned out he was so emotional about just being back on the football field that he had tears in his eyes during practice,” Hunt said via telephone on Thursday.

No wonder.

Bridgeforth, a Nazareth High School grad, broke into the starting lineup at Colgate midway through his sophomore year, then had a 60-tackle, two-interception junior year and was looking forward to a big final year. But in the first game of 2015, he blew out his knee in a game against Navy. He applied for and received a medical red-shirt season, so he worked hard to get back in shape.

He was working out with his teammate during an informal summer passing drill when he reinjured the same knee – the meniscus, this time, but bad enough to require another surgery.

“He worked so hard to come back from the first surgery, then he doubled down on the second one,” Hunt said. “He said he wanted to play (the season opener) against Syracuse. We told him it wouldn’t be a gift; he would have to get at least 10 days of practice. He said he would, and he did.”

He has started four of Colgate’s first eight games while sharing the corner spot with freshman Abu Daramy.

“He’s played quite a bit,” Hunt said. “He doesn’t have a ton of stats, but he’s doing a nice job and being a corner, the tackle numbers won’t be there.” He has 10 tackles, but Hunt added, “he has a couple of big interceptions for us.”

More than the stats, however, is the effect Bridgeforth has on the rest of the Raiders. “He’s a great leader,” Hunt said. “I have seniors talk to the team, and Adam talked to them (Wednesday) night. He did a great job. Everybody loves him.

“I was so happy he was able to come back. He went through a lot just to be here, because he’s pre-scholarship. He had to earn a lot of the money to be here. He literally would show up for preseason camp with tar on his hands from the roofing job he was at the day before. A Other kids would be on spring break or summer break; he’s on the roof pouring tar to make money to be here. I’m happy he could go out on his terms as opposed to on a stretcher. (The second knee surgery in less than a year) would have broken a lot of kids. He never lost faith.”

Bridgeforth is one of four Colgate fifth-year medical red-shirts this season. John Wilkins is listed as the starting fullback; Christian Hardegree will start or share time with Ben Hunt (not related to the coach) at strong safety.

Lafayette freshman Yasir Thomas -- before his switch to defense.
Photo courtesy of Lafayette College.
A SAFETY MEASURE – His former high school coaches, some college coaches, his family and his friends have been telling Yasir Thomas for months that he needs to be playing defense. Well, now he is.

“They said they notice that I’m a different player when I’m on defense and I can hit people,” the Lafayette freshman from Patterson, NJ., told me at Tuesday’s media luncheon. “The way I run the ball, I didn’t have many opportunities to make somebody miss (a tackle), so I just had to put down my shoulder. It was a compliment to them; they inspired me to play defense again.”

A bunch of injuries to secondary personnel, including Lehigh Valley freshmen Tre Jordan and Julian Spigner and sophomore Izaiah Avent, forced the Lafayette coaches to look for replacement from other areas. Thomas, who had been an all-state d-back in New Jersey, was playing wide receiver for Lafayette and also returning kickoffs. He has played in every game as a rookie, and inm the first eight games he had 15 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown and had returned 19 kickoffs for 319 yards. He rsan the ball only once – for two yards.

During the week of the Georgetown game, after T.J. Jones had suffered a concussion against Bucknell, Thomas said, “Coach called me in and said, ‘I hate to do this but do you want to play defense?’ I’m like, sure, anything the team needs, I’m there for. If Coach Fein still needs me on offense I’m here. I just want to help the team build and get better every rep.”

He had only three days of practice and started against the Hoyas at strong safety, with veteran Draeland James shifting to free safety. Thomas had four tackles and a pass breakup; James intercepted a pass and also made four tackles.

Thomas has had two weeks of practice to better learn the schemes of the secondary, and when someone mentioned that he’s probably be playing faster this week against Colgate, he said, “Yeah, once I know what I’m doing. Sometimes I’m full go even when I don’t know what I’m doing, so, if I’m going to make a mistake, it’s going to be at 150 miles per hour. This week I’m a little smarter and I know how to watch film better … not as well as I should but enough to get me where I need to be in the game.”

The youngster will get a good test this week from Raiders QB Jake Melville and the read option offense that features running back Keyon Washington and receivers John Maddaluna and Alex Greenawalt. Somehow, I get the feeling he’ll be ready to give it a good shot.

TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR #152 -- The communications people at Lafayette reminded me that some tickets are still available for the 152nd Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry, which is set for 12:30 p.m. Nov. 19 in Fisher Stadium. This year marks the first time since 2012 that the game was played in Easton. Tickets, priced at $29 for adults and $15 for students, may be purchased in the ticket office in the Kirby Sports Center, which is open from 10 a.m. to  p.m. Monday through Friday. You may call 610-330-5471 to be sure tickets are still available, or you may email 

LEOPARD SPOTS -- James Holland, who scored three touchdowns against Lafayette last year, hasn’t played since the third game of the season. Keyon Washington, according to Hunt, “has done a good job for us with more than 100 yards rushing in four of five games, but he’s not the same.” Washington is 5-8, 175; Holland is 5-9, 205. Hunt said they referred to Holland as their “closer” because “in the fourth quarter you can go to him and he’s going to get you four yards. That’s what we’re missing a little bit.” … Raider QB Jake Melville is a big play guy. He has a 75-yard touchdown run this year and has been on the throwing end of a 93-yard TD pass to John Maddaluna Washington has six touchdowns rushing, one of them a 42-yarder … if this game becomes a field-goal-kicking contest, both teams are capable. Lafayette’s Jacob Bissell had four three-pointers against the Raiders and is 8-for-11 for the year, but none of 40 yards – he’s missed two from that range. Colgate’s Jonah Bowman is 9-for-10 this year with a long of 42 … The visiting team has won the last three games in this series, but Colgate has an overwhelming overall advantage of 42-13-4.


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