Putting Lehman back on the map

The Lehman football team was in disarray at the beginning of last season.

Carmine Colasanto, the Lions’ coach for 32 years, was dismissed in July following a reported controversy over his assistant coaches’ overtime pay. Debbie Vance became the only female football coach in the PSAL and started too late to set up a preseason training camp for her team. On top of that, Lehman was loaded with inexperience.

“That’s a tough act to follow,” said Vance, who had been the JV coach since 1996. “Carmine was an icon throughout the years and it was adjustment to him not being here.”

Colasanto guided Lehman to 26 playoff appearances and the Lions were in the PSAL city championship game four years ago. Last year’s 1-8 finish was the worst in recent memory. Vance and her senior-laden team — 20 players are entering their final season of varsity football — are hoping to reverse course now that things have settled down.

“The model is putting Lehman back on the map,” she said. “I think that we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

Any success starts with massive offensive and defensive lines, led by junior Omar Boothe, who will play both sides, and 6-foot-3, 280-pound offensive tackle Vito Ademaj. The Lions will get a real boost from nose guard Mike Smith (6-5, 280), who missed all of last year after hernia surgery.

The offensive line will be protecting quarterback Edwin Guity, who is known for his running ability but has shown improvement in the passing game, Vance said. Lehman’s offense will primarily rely on the ground game, though.

“We really want to pound the ball,” Vance said.

The Lions should have some depth at running back. Tarrick Kabore, who also starts at inside linebacker, is the team’s sturdy fullback, and George Fields is a solid senior tailback. A diamond in the rough could be David White. He rushed for 521 yards on 42 carries with three touchdowns on the JV team last year.

Vance said White is a Deuce McAllister-type running back.

“Just remember that name,” Vance said of White. “He’s the real deal. a You will not arm tackle this kid. He has big legs and is always moving.”

Defense is another area where Lehman is experienced. The Lions return seven starters on that side of the ball, including Kabore and outside linebackers Rudy DeLeon and Julio Velazquez.

Vance is just happy she’s had the entire offseason to prepare. She was able to bring the kids to a camp (in Towanda, Pa.) for a few days, like most teams do.

“This experience has really made them grow,” Vance said.

It seems like everything is getting back to normal at Lehman.

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