Navy's Lepore reveals himself as a deep man who comes up to hit

Big plays, tackles earn junior job as `other' safety

September 17, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

At Kent last weekend, one Navy defensive statistic was eye-popping: Tackles, J. Doffermyre, 1.

It wasn't that the team's leading tackler from last season was slacking on the job. What it meant was that the Golden Flashes attack, wanting no part of Jamie Doffermyre concentrated its efforts elsewhere.

Enter Chris Lepore.

The "other" safety in Navy's 3-4 defense, Lepore welcomed the challenge.

"They hardly ran the ball toward Jamie at all," said the junior from North Olmstead, Ohio. "He had to run 20 or more yards just to get to the play. I was the new guy, and here they came."

Lepore acknowledged that overplaying the run got him burned for one long touchdown in Navy's 48-28 victory, but he acquitted himself nicely otherwise, forcing a fumble, making an 8-yard sack, collecting four unassisted tackles, and assisting on another.

Given that performance, not to mention what he did in Navy's season-opening loss to Georgia Tech, Navy's opponent tomorrow, Boston College, is not as likely to be so eager to test Lepore, although he expects action.

In the Georgia Tech game, Lepore accounted for 21 tackles, five more than his career total as a substitute, including 16 of the solo variety.

"I shouldn't be making most of the tackles, like against Georgia Tech. It's a bad thing when that happens. It means they're getting six and seven yards on every play," said Lepore. "But last week in practice, we went full-speed twice. The coaches were in our faces more, and it carried over. We corrected our intensity level."

Lepore had good reason to be pumped for the Kent game. It was near his home, and about 50 family members and friends attended to see the hometown favorite, a two-way player at St. Edward High School, make only his second start for Navy.

In football-rich Ohio, he had played in high-school games with bigger crowds than the 12,872 at Kent.

"I could have gone to schools near there, Kent and Akron, but I came to Navy, because I thought it would be better academically," he said.

Lepore saw limited duty in 1998 after spending his plebe season on the JV. He earned his starting role in the spring with some monstrous hits in scrimmages.

"I like it when they call my blitz," which he said is happening often. "You get a lot more sacks that way. You try to hit the guy you're tackling as hard as you can and fly around and make plays. That's my job."

Navy will be playing for the third straight week. Boston has been off since edging Baylor, 30-29, in overtime Sept. 4.

"This early in the season, I don't think a week off is that big a deal," said Lepore. "If it came after you accumulated a lot of bumps and bruises, like five or six weeks in, it might make a difference."

The 6-foot, 196-pounder generally is supposed to play the pass first, then help out against the running game. He got caught doing the opposite on one play, his inexperience showing.

"It was my fault. I just played the run too hard," he said.

He expects the Eagles to be especially intense, given Navy's stirring, come-from-behind win after trailing 28-10 last season.

"I'm sure they've circled this game on their calendar," Lepore said. "I'm looking forward to it. I love key games."

NOTES: Navy, averaging 292 yards rushing, is sixth in the nation. Its 399 running yards against Kent were the 13th highest in school history. Brian Broadwater has thrown 36 passes in the first two games. The 36th Navy pass of 1998 didn't occur until the fourth game. Boston College has four Baltimore-area players on its roster, but the only prominent one is Ryan Burch (Loyola), a former lineman who has been moved to fullback.

Next for Navy

Opponent: Boston College

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

When: Tomorrow, noon

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

TV: HTS

Pub Date: 9/17/99

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