Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Alexander and Lenahan Are Brothers From Another In Utica Secondary

From the outside looking in, James Lenahan and Rob Alexander aren’t the likeliest of brothers.

Well, they aren’t actually brothers.

Not by blood…

Lenahan and Alexander, a pair of defensive backs bolstering Utica’s pressure-provokes-panic themed secondary, consider each other surrogate family members.

Lenahan hails from quiet, suburban Mahopac, where he thrived under head coach Tom Donahoe at super-sized, Class AA Mahopac High School.

Alexander is from  the bustling, never-a-dull-moment city of Yonkers.

He attended tiny, Class C Dobbs Ferry, where everyone knows everyone who ever passed through  and the tight bonds tend to last a lifetime.

Their love of football, the unbridled desire to give Utica visibility, has made Lenahan and Alexander an inseparable and unlikely tandem.

Without flinching, Alexander will refer to Lenahan as his brother, someone who motivates him to play harder. He's not just a teammate; he's a teammate whose constant and insatiable competitive drive raises Alexander's level of play.

The competition is witnessed off the field.

Between 6-foot, 165-pound safety Lenahan and 5-foot-8, 180-pound cornerback Alexander, everything from video games to girls to pickup basketball intensifies.

Sure, they’ve had their fair share of heated arguments.

They'll sometimes chirp ferociously at each other, like two brothers hell-bent on snagging the last cookie in the jar.

The intensity has ratcheted to near-fist fight levels.

 Like brothers, however, the disagreements dissolve quickly.

Alexander has labeled his teammate a “film nerd,” adding that he watches film of foes more than he watches television.

Lenahan calls Alexander “one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.”

On the field, it’s all business. Both players are cognizant they must defend each other’s back—or else.

That’s the nature of their ultra-tight friendship, which sets a precedent for younger players to follow.

A football-possessed version of Frick and Frack, the trust between Alexander and Lenahan has made them a lethal tandem leading Utica’s secondary.

“Our friendship makes me play that much harder,” Alexander said.

“Him trusting he has a corner underneath and myself trusting that I have a blanket over the top, it makes us fearless on the field.”

In Lenahan, Alexander’s words echo.

“We really trust each other, and that is a huge plus with the way I play and how he plays his game,” Lenahan explained.

“We really feed off each other and we just love playing together.”

While Utica struggled in a disappointing 3-7 campaign, Alexander and Lenahan have helped build promise. They hope this will open a bridge to revival in 2014.

Both players will be seniors, shouldering perhaps the biggest role of their football lives.

This past season, Lenahan led the way for the secondary. He emerged with a team-best five interceptions. He has 10 picks the last two seasons.

Lenahan also adjusted to a new role, blitzing and churning out two sacks during a 25-16 win against Union College.

Alexander fortified the secondary with 60 tackles. Utica was first in the Empire 8 in pass rush, until last week.

 A steady progress remains.

Seven of 11 starters return on defense, including the entire secondary.

“Our goal is to win the Empire 8,” Lenahan said. “More was learned off this 3-7 season than last year’s 6-4 season. Last year, every game we lost was sort of a blowout."

Lenahan continued, "This year, we lose six games we were either leading or within seven points during the fourth quarter. We lost to St. John Fischer (28-27), a game that was ultimately decided by an extra point. They went all the way to the Final 8 in the Division-III playoffs. We have the talent and the coaching, we just need to put it together and we can definitely win the Empire 8.”

 At Dobbs, a traditional class C power, Alexander's game evolved under a contingent of savvy veterans. He was a vital figure on both sides of the ball, leading the Eagles' traditional inside-outside attack as a running back.

Flanking Alexander was his close friend, quarterback/defensive back Trevor Saunders. Saunders, who would prolong his career at St. Lawrence (Canton, N.Y.), cracked the upper-percentile of the nation's Division-III products his senior season.

The program was tight-knit, placing brotherhood and winning above everything else. It was a tight-knit family atmosphere that mirrors the landscape at desolate Utica.

 Lenahan played at Mahopac, where he and his tight friend Victor DiFusco helped propel a deep senior class to a berth in the Section I championship game in 2010.  

The Indians fell to Jordan Lucas-led New Rochelle in the title game, culminating an epic season and the best in recent memory.

Lucas is now at Penn State, where he displayed major glimpses this past season.

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