|STEELHAWKS CONTINUE TO MAKE STRIDES|
A Year in Review: Lehigh Valley’s Second Season
Bethlehem, PA: The 2012 IFL season has come to a close for the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks. In their second year of existence as a franchise, they have made great strides in improving both on the field and off. They founded some great new partnerships and continued old ones within the community, and also made progress in becoming a better football team.
The Steelhawks made some big off season moves last fall in preparation for the upcoming season. Some big partnerships were continued- ball sponsor NSM Insurance, official medical provider St. Luke’s University Health Network, Wilson Elser, Roosevelt’s 21st became the official post game party spot, and Service Electric signed on to continue broadcasting all Steelhawk home games. In a press conference in early December -- hosted by Holiday Inn Lehigh Valley the official hotel provider of the Steelhawks – it was announced that PA Podiatry would be sponsoring the Official Steelhawks Mascot, Talon, named by a fan vote.
On the football side of things, it was announced that Chris Thompson would be the new Head Coach and Assistant General Manager of the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks for the 2012 season. Joining him on the coaching staff would be Kevin O’Hanlon- Defensive Coordinator, Bob Kohler- Assistant Offensive Coordinator/Special Teams, Al Stokes- Assistant Offensive/Defensive Line Coach, John Zima- Kicking Coach/Assistant Special Teams, Preston McKnight- Quality Control.
Throughout the winter, members of the Steelhawk organization, Precious Metal dance team, and Talon all made various appearances all around the community; visiting schools, businesses, and other venues hosting events. A few of the events included the No Bullying School Pep Rally at a Northampton Elementary school, Lehigh Valley Health Expo, and the Lehigh Valley Easy Pages Launch Party. One of the most rewarding events the Steelhawks got to be apart of was the Spirit of the Lehigh Valley Christmas Eve event hosted by the Holiday Inn Lehigh Valley that served brunch to needing families from all over the Valley. All the children were also given a donated toy to celebrate the holiday. During the season, Steelhawk players also were a part of Project Dream Seeds, visiting local elementary schools to meet with students. They also were a part of the Race for Adam 5k held at the Lehigh Parkway.
Excitement grew as the season got closer, Iron Lakes Sports Club was partnered with as the practice facility for the Steelhawks, and more players were signed to the camp roster. February 6th kicked off the 2012 training camp, leaving just two weeks until the season opener.
The Steelhawks season kicked off on the road, first in Chicago, where they brought home a victory. The Steelhawks Home Opener was March 11th against the Bloomington Extreme and presented by Dr. Cressman-Reed. After dropping their home opener, the Steelhawks followed it up at home with a break out performance over their cross-town rivals the Reading Express, scoring a franchise record and at the time league high 86 points in their win.
After a two game road trip, the Steelhawks were back at home to face the Cedar Rapids Titans on a night deemed Youth Sports Night. Prior to the game, the Steelhawks hosted a Team X flag football intra league tournament, the championship being played at halftime of the professional game. Everyone had a lot of fun with the tournament and the Steelhawks finished up the night successful in their own game, claiming a 25-19 point win in a defensive battle, and giving the team a 4-3 record for the first half of the season.
The strong start got many of the Steelhawk players’ looks from higher leagues such as the AFL, CFL, and UFL. Six players got calls to go workout with teams in higher leagues, giving them a great opportunity to fulfill their athletic dreams.
As the season continued, the Steelhawks found themselves in a bit of slump. They suffered some tough losses, losing three games by three points or less. Playing the Chicago Slaughter on Health Awareness Night, presented by St. Luke’s University Health Network, the Steelhawks dropped a tough game, losing on a field goal in the fourth overtime period.
As they entered their final three game home stand of the season, the Steelhawks took another loss on their next home game as well, losing to the Omaha Beef on Salute to Hero’s Night. The night wasn’t a total loss, with the help of game sponsor Cohen & Feeley, over $7,000 was raised for local military families with the Veterans Sanctuary and LV Military Affairs Council. Part of the money came from another celebrity bartending night at Starters Riverport. The Steelhawks and Cohen & Feeley also put together a very successful silent auction.
The Steelhawks turned it around the next week, defeating the Reading Express on Race for Adam night. Proceeds from the game went to the Race for Adam Foundation. Subway Restaurants was the presenting sponsor of Fan Appreciation Night as the Steelhawks took on the Green Bay Blizzard in their final home game of the 2012 season. Even though they took another loss in the game, the Steelhawks were still in the playoff hunt as they prepared to take on Chicago on the road in their final regular season contest. In an exciting game, the Steelhawks were victorious in another overtime showdown, pulling out a 54-53 win over the Slaughter.
Finishing with a 6-8 record in the regular season, the Steelhawks learned they had earned the fourth and final spot in the United Conference playoffs. This seeded the Steelhawks to play the undefeated Sioux Falls Storm. Playing in their first ever playoff game, the young franchise were no match for the dominant Storm and were knocked out in the first round.
The Steelhawks had great success as a franchise within the league as well. They had five different players named IFL Player of the Week during the season – DB Marvin Johnson- Week 1 vs. Chicago (6 tackles, 1 int, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 td), QB Bryan Randall- Week 4 vs Reading (10 of 14 passes, 213 yds, 5 tds, 0 ints), K Chris Hazely- Week 4 vs Reading (4 of 5 fgs, 8 of 11 pats, for 20 pts), WR Irani DeAraujo- Week 7 vs Reading (12 catches for 134 yds, 5 tds), DB Jesse Cooper- Week 15 vs Green Bay (4 tackles, 3 ints, 4 kickoffs for 100 yds and td). Lehigh Valley also had two players named to the All-IFL team, LB Matt Cohen was named to the All-IFL First Team as it’s Iron Man and DB Marvin Johnson was named to the Second Team All-IFL Team. The Steelhawk organization was also given the IFL’s Best Media Relation Award for the second straight year and the IFL’s Community Relations Award.
By the end of the season, three Steelhawks players were playing on AFL teams (QB Bryan Randall- Pittsburgh Power, DL/LB Brian Brikowski- Cleveland Gladiators, OL Jeremy Schonbrunner- Georgia Force). The Steelhawks defense was ranked 5th in the league for points given up (43.9), RB Ryan Leafey was 3rd in average yards per carry (4.4 yds), WR Irani DeAraujo was 4th in total catches (77), DB/KR Jesse Cooper was 7th in total return yards (663 yds) and 4th in kicks returned for tds, and DB Marvin Johnson was 6th in tackles, Cooper and Johnson were tied for 4th in the league with 7 ints.
The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks have made great progress in growing as an organization in their two short years in existence. They qualified for playoffs in just their second season, and have been apart of numerous community events, have a strong fan base, and are really engraining themselves within the Valley. They look to take even more steps forward in the 2013 season!
Fans are reminded that 2013 season ticket deposits are being accepted now to reserve your seats for next year. You can reserve your seats by calling the Steelhawks front office at 610-282-3100.
For further information on the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks please contact Executive Vice President Mike Clark at610-282-3100.