By John-Paul HezelHoya Staff Writer

Mel Gibson’s character’s philosophy in The Patriot is to “aim small, miss small,” to set minor goals to reach larger, more significant objectives. As the Georgetown football team moves from the ECAC into the more prestigious Patriot League, it is time for the Hoyas to begin sharing that same attitude.

Like Gibson, who attempts to win small skirmishes that will help win the war, the Hoyas will attempt to piece together small victories on and off the field that will help them compete in 2001 and beyond.

“It’s a challenge,” eight-year Head Coach Bob Benson said. “Nothing happens overnight.” Benson went on to state that the players all maintain a “realistic” attitude about the tough trasition.

“How long will it take?” Benson asks himself. “I don’t know.”

The first test for the Hoyas will come opening day at Kehoe Field against Lehigh, No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today Division I-AA preseason poll.

“Lehigh is probably the best team that’s been on campus since 1950,” Benson said. “But we’re certainly up to the challenge. We’re excited. We’re looking forward to bringing some school spirit, some pride to campus on a Saturday afternoon.”

To carry that enthusiasm and to earn the support of their fans, the Hoyas look to improve upon last year’s 5-6 record, their first losing season since 1993 when they finished 4-5. Prior to the 2000 campaign, Georgetown had rattled off six consecutive winning seasons, culminating in back-to-back 9-2 marks after making the ECAC bowl with an 8-3 record in 1997.

They need not match that success during the first year in a tougher conference, but they need to prove that they can compete again with the upper echelon of Division I-AA.

“We’ve competed in this league,” Benson said. Georgetown has defeated Holy Cross twice in the last three years, 13-12 in 1998 and 34-16 in 1999. They lost 38-22 last year.

“The key to the whole thing is depth,” Benson said.

That depth begins at quarterback, where three players are battling for the starting job.

Junior Dave Paulus, the incumbent starter who threw for 2,147 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2000, suffered an injury during the spring workout sessions and has since been battling senior Sean Peterson and sophomore Morgan Booth for the position.

The competition, however, was no surprise to Paulus, who was not named the starter early in the preseason.

The team will announce the starter today, a day after its final split squad scrimmage.

Catching the passes of the yet-to-be-named quarterback will be a highly athletic core of young receivers. Junior Trenton Hillier, the veteran of the group and also a backup guard on the basketball team, sophomores Luke McArdle and Walter Bowser and freshman Chris Agnello each will be dashing down the sidelines trying to fill the void left by 2000 graduate, Gharun Hester, who holds Hoya records for career receiving yardage with 3,089 and touchdowns with 39.

“Hillier has really stepped it up,” Benson said. “McArdle and Bowser may be as talented as anyone we’ve ever had. They have speed, they are playmakers, and they are very strong.”

The Hoyas have more than just physical strength. Since announcing that they would join the Patriot League, the Hoyas have enjoyed a more than significant increase in their recruiting ability, fortifying themselves at every position.

“It’s like night and day,” Benson said. “We’ve always had good players, but now we have more availability nationwide.”

And those skilled freshmen have lugged with them more than just speed, brawn, and knowledge of the game to Georgetown.

“There’s a sense of urgency,” Benson said. “The freshman have brought a reality check to the older guys.”

For example, freshman tailback John Sims will try to earn playing time behind one of two expected starters, junior Jamarr Staples or sophomore Dawon Dicks. Staples led the Hoyas in rushing last season with 414 yards and seven touchdowns. He or Dicks will be joined in the backfield by punishing fullback and tri-captain Aaron Brown, who also is an effective blocker.

On the offensive line, which gained much needed experience last year, 290-pound junior Ed Kuczma is returning at left tackle, while three sophomores, 305-pound Ty Hollister, 320-pound Billy Wuyek and 260-pound Jay Sylvester are competing for right tackle. Senior Stephen Cook at 295 pounds is the returning starter at right guard, while juniors Charles Stavitski, 265, and Mark Allenbach, 275, are in the hunt at on the left side. Junior Adam Rini, the smallest of the front line at 240, has the inside track at center. Allenbach and 273-pound Jim Lenihan are the Hoyas’ other options at that position.

Like at quarterback, the teammate competitions will only make the team a more potent contender.

Defensively, Georgetown’s strength lies within the ranks of its veteran line.

“Our strongest weapon defensively is up front,” Benson said.

The Hoyas return both starting defensive ends, senior Eric Speron and junior Mike Schrama, who each appeared in all 11 games a year ago. Speron was sixth on the team with 38 tackles, while Schrama chipped in with 24. The coaching staff is also looking forward to the return of Zachary Yorke, a junior defensive end who missed the spring due to an injury.

The interior line has a number of familiar faces returning. Tri-captain Brian Blankenship is back at one tackle spot. He had five tackles for losses in seven games before suffering a season-ending injury last year. Juniors John Hallmark, Justin Haynes and Matt Korcinsky and sophomore Ryan McGovern are all competing for playing time at the other tackle. Hallmark played well during the spring season, while Haynes, who moved from defensive end in the spring, had six sacks last season. Senior Scott Pogorelec returns at nose guard where he recorded 37 tackles in 2000.

Behind the line two very talented linebackers, tri-captain atthew Craffey, the team’s top returning tackler with 85 from the previous year, and fellow senior Ryan Merse will return to the Hoya defense. Craffey led the Hoyas with 12 tackles for losses and had six sacks and two interceptions in 2000. Merse, the second linebacker in Georgetown’s 5-2 set, is also one of the top special teams weapons.

Patrolling the defensive backfield will be senior free-safety Ryan Cooper, who will be in charge of running the defense, calling the plays like a quarterback does on offense. Joining him in coverage will be sophomore Matt Fronczke and freshmen Byron Anderson and Darryl Collier who Benson is looking for to step up at the defensive back position. Like Simms at tailback and Brandon Small at defensive end, Benson believes that these two freshmen can make an immediate impact on the program.

The Hoyas have both of their kickers back for the 2001 season. arc Samuel, a second year law student at Georgetown, will once again be the place kicker. Samuel transferred to Georgetown two years ago after kicking for the University of Kentucky, where he finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference in scoring. Samuel set a field record with a 51-yard field goal at Duquesne last season

“He might be the best kicker in the country,” Benson said. “Every NFL team is looking at him.”

And even if Paulus fails to retain his starting position at quarterback, his job as the punter is safe. Paulus averaged 37.6 yards a punt last season and had 15 kicks land inside the 20.

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