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Mountain Hawks looking for a turnaround
Freshman Matt Lippincott, a Wilson grad, hopes he enjoys the same success in college as he did in high school.
Matt Lippincott enjoyed his fall Saturday afternoons at Wilson Area High School where the Warriors often pleased home crowds with offensive extravaganzas.
During Lippincott’s last two seasons at Wilson, the team went unbeaten in the Colonial League, 23-2 overall and averaged 38 points per game.
Now a freshman at Lehigh, Lippincott hopes to be a part of another high-scoring attack and another championship-caliber program.
He’s the backup center for the Mountain Hawks, and ready — if and when needed — to trigger an offense that may not have the same firepower as the one Lippincott experienced at Wilson, but one with much promise entering the 2010 season.
“I’ve got a new number, a new position and a new offense to learn,” said Lippincott, who wore No. 55 and was a left tackle for the Warriors and is now wearing No. 66 for Lehigh.
Don’t worry about a lengthy transition. He’s already well ingrained and raising eyebrows among teammates and coaches.
“I still have a lot to learn,” Lippincott said. “But living so close, I had a chance to work out with the team all summer and the upperclassmen really took a hold of me and showed me the ropes. “
Lippincott made a quick surge up the depth chart and feels prepared for whatever the coming season may have in store for him. And that’s a tribute to the program at Wilson where coach Bret Comp wants to do more than produce winning teams.
“Coach [Bret] Comp prepared us for more than football, he prepared us for life,” said Lippincott, an all-league, all-area and all-state selection last season.
“He gets his players ready for the challenges ahead. I know coming in here everything is not going to be sunshine and daisies. There are going to be hard times, times where you question why you play. But then you realize that you really love the game and the next day is a new day, and a new chance to prove yourself to coaches.”
With a new quarterback in Chris Lum and a new offensive coordinator in Dave Cecchini, the entire Lehigh offense has a lot to prove this season beginning with Saturday night’s season-opener at Drake.
The Mountain Hawks have gone 5-6, 5-6 and 4-7 over the last three seasons and the fans who still faithfully come to Goodman Stadium are hopeful of a turnaround this season.
And most of those fans point to the offense as the area in need of the biggest upgrade.
The potential is there beginning with the building blocks up front.
The engine that powers the operation is steered by All-American left tackle Will Rackley and all-league right guard Ricky Clerge, who both offer stability and experience.
Lippincott, who is behind junior Jim Liebler on the depth chart, said he has learned the offense, and more, from Rackley and Clerge and others.
“The cast around me is phenomenal,” Lippincott said. “If I had to go in there right now, they could show me what to do and push me through. There’s no reason this offense shouldn’t be clicking.”
Lippincott being a fast learner is not a surprise. He was a member of the National Honor Society at Wilson, and as a center he is responsible for calling out schemes and protections.
“I have to do a lot more thinking than when I played tackle at Wilson,” he said. “Calling things out and making sure the quarterback gets the ball are my main jobs.”
Besides his smarts, head coach Andy Coen said Lippincott provides the toughness he likes in the trenches.
“He has taken to things in a hurry,” Coen said. “He has played both guard and center for us and really picked up things well assignment-wise. If he had to play a game today, he could do. He’s a good, solid, smart kid who loves the game of football.”
Lippincott and sophomore linebacker Billy Boyko of Northampton, who is expected to see a lot of action on the special teams, are the only two current Lehigh players who played high school ball in either the Colonial League or Lehigh Valley Conference.
Due to a variety of factors, the days of Lehigh lining its roster with locals are over.
But Coen has great appreciation for the caliber of high school football played in the Lehigh Valley and would love to have even more area kids play in the shadow of South Mountain.
“It’s not that we don’t take a long, hard look at what we have around here,” Coen said. “We’d love to have more.”
A plus with local kids is that they bring a built-in fan base with them. Lippincott said he will have family and friends at every game.
“I expect even former coaches to come,” he said. “Wilson plays Saturday afternoon home games and that makes it harder, but Coach Comp will be here when he gets a chance.”
Lippincott said he knows that Comp will have divided loyalties on Nov. 20 when Lehigh visits Lafayette’s Fisher Stadium for the 146th edition of college football’s most-played rivalry.
“Coach Comp’s wife [Dawn] is an athletic trainer at Lafayette and when I came to the Lehigh-Lafayette game here last year he was the other sideline,” Lippincott said. “It was a little different after the game when I was wearing my Lehigh shirt and Coach Comp was wearing a Lafayette shirt.
“But I have no regrets about coming here. My mother [Tammy] used to work here [in the health center]. This is where I belong.”
Mountain Hawks looking for a turnaround
By Keith Groller, OF THE MORNING CALL