Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lehigh Weekend: "The Rivalry" Part Three, And Key Momentum for Championships

Most of the weekend action will be taking place a day later than usual, but the women's basketball, men's basketball, and wrestling teams all need big wins - and two of them against "that school in Easton", no less. - to go to the Patriot League (or EIWA) tournaments in shape for a shot at the NCAAs.

The women's team - who enjoyed their first 20 win season in 19 years with a 71-42 domination of Colgate on Wednesday - look to extend their Patriot League lead Saturday over American (who lost 60-58 in overtime to Army on Wednesday) at 1:00 p.m. at Kirby Field House where they take on the 8-18 Leopards. While it's tempting to look at the statistics and project an easy Lehigh victory - with the game notes helpfully pointing out that Lafayette's loss to Lehigh triggered a 7 game losing streak for them, and a "tale of the tape" pointing the advantage to Lehigh on *every single statistic* - whenever Lehigh and Lafayette meet in "The Rivalry", it's a time to throw out the records and statistics and expect a close game. Still, look for senior G Tricia Smith (7.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and senior F Haly Crites (5.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg) to try to potentially finish their careers against Lafayette with a bang today.
Speaking of the women's basketball team, it's worth mentioning that the Patriot League women's basketball tournament will be held at Stabler Arena in Bethelhem, PA two weeks from now, announced by the executive director of the Patriot League, the mayors of Bethlehem and Easton, and representatives from St. Luke's hospital in a big press conference this week. Of the highlights, March 7th has been declared "Patriot League Women's Basketball Day" in the Lehigh Valley.
***
Sunday is when Lehigh's men's basketball and wrestling teams take over, in their regular season home finales before the Patriot League/EIWA championships.
At 12:00 p.m., broadcast around the world on ESPNU, the 15-10 men's basketball team will be looking to win to keep their chances of a first round home playoff game alive against 7-19 Lafayette. While Lehigh's 49-40 "defensive struggle" against Colgate wasn't even the lowest scoring men's basketball game in the state on Wednesday (Penn State 38, Illinois 33), the win has kept Lehigh's hope of getting to the Patriot League tournament as the No. 4 (or, in the best case scenario, No. 3) intact. Once again, look to the seniors for big games: senior F Phil Anderson (7.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and senior G Matt Szalachowski (1.3 ppg, 5 points, 2 rebounds vs. Army) to play big games.
*****
As if two games against our archrival wasn't enough, the No. 8-ranked Lehigh wrestlers hold their home dual finale against No. 25 Penn - and while Lehigh has clinched the best EIWA wrestling record already, it would be an amazing achievement to go 9-0 against EIWA wrestling foes going into the EIWA wrestling championships. While it should be exciting to see if Lehigh will be able to do it, certainly all eyes will be on No. 15-ranked senior 149 lb Trevor Chinn, no only wrestling his final home dual as a senior but will be facing one of Penn's better wrestlers: No. 11-ranked Cesar Grajales, also a senior. Chinn lost the only time he faced Grajales in 2007 - and it could be a preview of the EIWA championship at 149 as well.
****
All games will be broadcast on lehighsports.com, and (as already noted) the men's basketball game will also be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.

Friday, February 20, 2009

2008 Hawks of the Year Award

This weekend, Lehigh will be holding its football awards banquet to honor the 2008 team that had a hard-fought rollercoaster year - but with a season-ending streak of winning three of four games - including the win over "that school in Easton" that you can buy directly from Lehighsports.com - it will be a much more upbeat ceremony, no doubt, than it has in years past.

To celebrate the 2008 season, I'm releasing the "Hawks of the Year" awards that I've been doing since 2003. Based on the weekly polls during the season and my nominations for "Players of the Week", it's my own yearly tradition to celebrate the achievements of this year's Mountain Hawks.

Without any further ado, let's get right to the nominations.

Offensive Hawks of the Year
With the resurgence of the Lehigh offense, it wasn't easy to figure out who the winners would be; and as it turned out, for the second straight year it was a tie between senior RB Matt McGowan and senior WR Sekou "Stuntman" Yansane.

McGowan rushed 175 times for 805 yards, caught 26 balls for 291 yards - and for good measure, threw a key 34 yard pass on fourth down in the win against Fordham - taking every fan in the stadium by surprise. The Hazelton Area alumnus got 5 touchdowns on the year - with two memorable ones against Holy Cross, one on a 66 yard screen pass and a 46 yard touchdown run. McGowan also ended the year on the Patriot League Academic honor roll.

The "Stunt Man" caught 48 passes for 724 yards to lead the Mountain Hawks, as well as scoring 4 touchdowns. Called "Stunt Man" for his acrobatic catches falling out-of-bounds, he'll be best remembered for making ESPN's "Play of the Day" for (what else?) an acrobatic catch to set up a Lehigh touchdown in the 144th meeting of "The Rivalry". Yansane also ended the year on the Patriot League Academic honor roll as well.

Defensive Hawk of the Year
Once again, it's a tie between two Mountain Hawk linebackers: senior LB Tim Diamond and junior LB Matt Cohen. Diamond was always around the ball, racking up 104 tackles on the year (including 6 1/2 for loss) and becoming the first Mountain Hawk to register 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons since Ian Eason ('98) pulled that trick in 1996 and 1997. Cohen at times kept a low profile in Lehigh's defense, but it seemed like whenever Lehigh needed a big tackle for loss Cohen was there to make the play he ended the year with 53 tackles and an amazing 17 tackles for loss on the year.

Both Diamond and Cohen were on the first team all-Patriot League team as well.

Special Teams Hawk of the Year
He did a lot more than just return the final interception to put the icing in the win in the 144th meeting of "The Rivalry", but sophomore DB John Kennedy didn't just do that. He also racked up 666 yards in kickoff returns and countless times put the Lehigh offense in good field position. On defense, he notched 65 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 3 pass break-ups to earn him the nod at special teams.

Hawk Of The Year
This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise: the 2008 Hawk of the year is sophomore QB J.B. Clark. Going into 2008, the biggest question was who would win the QB battle, and would the winner be up to the job as a Division I quarterback. After a tough start against eventual FCS playoff participant Villanova, Clark found his shoes against Fordham and continued to get better and better week after week - ending with his finest performance of the year against "that school in Easton".

The numbers say a lot. A 132.93 passer rating. 2,350 yards passing. 23 touchdowns passing and 3 touchdowns rushing. But it's really about how he led this offense from being a huge question mark to a force to be reckoned with - and which culumulated with his clutching of the Lehigh/Lafayette MVP trophy.

Add another honor to your trophy case, J.B. Congratulations on becoming the 2008 Hawk of the Year.

Summary of other Lehigh 2008 postseason honors:

Senior DB Brendan VanAckeren, FCSADA Academic All-American Team, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Sophomore OL William Rackley,
first team all-Patriot League

Junior DL B. J. Benning, first team all-Patriot League

Senior DL Brian Jackson, first team all-Patriot League, The Sports Network All-American team honorable mention

Senior DB Quadir Carter, first team all-Patriot League, College Sporting News "Fabulous Fifty" team honorable mention, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Senior P/K Jason Leo, first team all-Patriot League, The Sports Network All-American team honorable mention

Senior OL Kevin Bayani, second team all-Patriot League

Sophomore DB Jarard Cribbs, second team all-Patriot League

Senior DL Paul Bode
, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Senior WR Jason Figura
, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Junior OL Frank Giacalone
, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Junior WR Brien Ruyak
, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Senior DB Steve Santora, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Senior OL Chris Tiefenthal
, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Senior DL Jon Warren
, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll

Congratulations to everyone! And enjoy the awards tomorrow.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Press Roundup: Lehigh's Class of 2013

Coach Coen made the rounds in the Wednesday papers talking about the class of 2003. I talked to him today, and I'll post my full interview with him next week. But the whet you appetite, I'll post the links to Keith Groller's interview in the Morning Call and Michael Lore's in the Easton Express-Times.

Add to that the official release, and you have a lot of quotes from coach Coen - of which the mashup follows below.

Coen is ecstatic the winner of the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year award is coming to South Mountain.

''I was real impressed with him on tape,'' Coen said. ''Matter of fact, I watched the same tapes about three times just to make sure I was believing what I was seeing. It's true that his team was superior to a lot of the teams they played, but you could still see his ability.''

Coen saw Barket in person once and even though it was in a season-ending loss to Steel-High, he was again impressed.

"He still had a big game [160 yards on 38 carries] and showed his toughness even though Steel-High was the better team," Coen said. ''He got banged around pretty good, but stayed tough as nails. He's a football player."

"It's always great to get kids with a local tie here," Coen said. "We try to do that every year when the profile fits. Zach is obviously highly decorated running back who had 4,187 yards and 65 rushing touchdowns in his senior year. He's certainly a very talented young man."

"With Matt McGowan graduating, the tailbacks coming in are going to be able to compete for time," Coen said. "Two seasons ago, we were in a situation with injury where two true freshman, Jaren Walker and Kwesi Kankam, were playing for us. The guys coming in should feel like they have an immediate chance to make a contribution.

"Tailback we felt we needed to address given the fact we've had so many injuries there over the past few years."

***


"This was our fourth recruiting class and we're now at that point where we need to be depth-wise at each position group," Coen said. "We wanted to continue to add size and physical kids. I especially like that we were able to add four defensive linemen and four receivers because we're going to be losing quality kids at those positions and we want to create competition at those spots.

"The one thing you learn is you could never have too many good players," he said. "I think that's the way you have to do in the Patriot League. We all take classes between 25-30, but you need to try and address every position.

"If there's any benefit to not being a scholarship program, you can take bigger classes it seems each year and try and plug players in the different positions. We've got good numbers where they need to be."

***

''We're dealing with a smaller pool of kids who can make things work financially,'' Coen said. ''That's not a Lehigh issue; that's a nationwide issue. The days of us being able to bring in six or seven Lehigh Valley kids, or even kids within a two-hour radius, are over.

"We're in a situation with the academics and finances that we have to reach out to a kid in California just as hard as we'd reach out to a kid over at Bethlehem Catholic.

“We are bringing in kids from nine states, including three from California. This shows the commitment by our coaching staff to search the country for the best and brightest, both academically and athletically, to fit in at Lehigh.”

"I think it's very important in the Patriot League these days," Coen said of national recruiting. "We've all really become a national recruiting model. We have to go that far to keep us competitive and be the types of kids who get accepted to the school here. You don't have the resources maybe to go out and see all these kids, so you have to do a great job cultivating these kids on the phone and recruiting services."

***

''All in all, I like this group,'' Coen said. ''You won't find a coach in the country who will tell you he's not excited about his recruiting class, but we feel like we have something established. We now have our guys in place. Everybody is now on the same page with their goals and vision for the program.''

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lehigh Announces Class of 2013

Lehigh announced the class of 2013 today - a large 26-strong class that bolsters three huge need areas for the Mountain Hawks: defensive line (6 recruits), defensive backs (4) and receivers (4). Add to that mix two high-profile quarterbacks, two intriguing running backs, and a replacement for senior P/K Jason Leo (incoming freshman P/K Jacob Peery, pictured), and you have what looks to be a very impressive incoming class.

“We continued to move in the right direction by bringing in big, physical kids, especially along both lines,” Coen explained. “With these last three classes we worked hard to address every position on the football field and I feel comfortable with the depth we have at every position.”


Following the graduation of All-American Brian Jackson, as well as Paul Bode, Jon Warren and Keith Johnson along the defensive line, the Lehigh coaching staff made it a point to re-stock that position. “With the graduation of Brian Jackson and three other seniors, this was a major area that we wanted to address and I feel that we did with a good mix of size and athleticism.”

Also along the front-seven, Lehigh brought in four linebackers, each of which stands at least six-feet tall and weighs 210 pounds. The Mountain Hawks return a strong group of linebackers for 2009, but must deal with the losses of two players from this group, in All-American Tim Diamond and Ben Pravata. “The newest group of linebackers have good size to them and are all physical,” explained Coen.
Seven recruits came locally from Pennsylvania, while Lehigh continued to look nationally for Division I football players - including one from Colorado, one from Minnesota, and three from California (though one Cali recruit played locally last year at Mercersburg Academy in PA).

Some other random thoughts aof mine bout this class:
  1. Conspicuous from their absence was no fullbacks in the incoming class - which makes me wonder if senior LB Al Pierce, who played some fullback last year when senior FB Greg Fay and senior RB Matt McGowan came down with injury, may be pencilled in at FB in 2009.
  2. Coach Coen has shown no hesitation to start freshmen, especially on the "O" line if he thinks they're ready, and you wonder if one of these four "O" linemen might get a chance if they excel in camp, just like rising junior OL Will Rackley and rising sophomore C Jim Liebler did the last two years.
  3. After mining Florida fairly extensively the past two years (which is where rising junior QB J.B. Clark came from), Lehigh only has two recruits from the football hotbed this year.
Look for exclusive comment directly from head coach Andy Coen on the blog very soon!

Without any further ado, here's my analysis of the class of 2013, complete with video highlights of every recruit that I could find.

RB Zach Barket (Schuylkill Haven HS, PA) Video Highlights (courtesy of YouTube)

The skinny: It won't be as easy as it was in high school for him, but Lehigh fans are hoping that he'll offer a fraction of the production he had at Schuylkill Haven High School in the Anthracite league. The Republican & Herald called it a travesty that he wasn't asked to play in the Big 33 All-Star game this year, and "if not making the Big 33 game is a travesty, I don’t believe the word has been invented yet to describe the wrong of Barket not being selected to play in the East-West [all-star game]."

The numbers folks are excited about are the staggering once he amassed at Schuykill Haven last year: 4,195 yards rushing and 66 TDs, demolishing school and state records.
Perhaps his size - at 5'9, 200 lbs - is why FBS schools passed him over, but their loss appears to be Lehigh's gain. Big gain.

DE Tom Bianchi (West Essex HS, NJ) Video Highlights (courtesy of ESPN)

The skinny: This 6'2, 231 lb defensive end graded out as a 64 from ESPN's recruiting website and listed Army, Boston College, Syracuse, New Hampshire as Penn as possible destinations - so we may have stole him away from Penn if that's the case. (Always good to see Lehigh reportedly taking recruits away from the Ivy League.) Watching the video, he showed really good push from the 3-4 defense they played, and got a good amount of pressure on the quarterback and disruption of the running game. He's listed as a "solid prospect" - for FBS schools.

DL/TE William Boyko (Northampton HS, PA)

The skinny: "Billy's a blue-collar kid who does anything that's asked of him,'' high school coach Bob Steckel said to Keith Groller of the Morning Call. ''Since last year, he's said 'Lehigh, Lehigh, Lehigh.' He also was impressed with Lafayette, but Lehigh's always been No. 1 with him because of the engineering and he's going to have a very good fit there.''

DL/OL Collin Bremer (Abington Heights HS, PA)

The skinny: More local talent is finding its way to Bethlehem, as this all-star lineman from the Lackawanna Football Conference reported has picked Lehigh over Bucknell, Colgate, Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut State. Abington Heights was known for having a talented, deep "O" line this year, but Lehigh has him listed on the "D" line. You have to love reading quotes like this: “I went down for my visit and I felt very comfortable there,” Bremer said. “They have a great football program there and the academics are top notch.”

DT Sajjad Ali Chagani (Sewanhaka HS, NY) Photo gallery

The skinny: The 6'2, 265 lb defensive tackle is also a heavyweight wrestler for Sewanhaka. He had 46 tackles, 36 assists, 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 5 fumble recoveries for the Indians.

WR Dan Cintron (Barnegat HS, NJ) Video Highlights courtesy of ESPN

The skinny: This speedster was listed as "one of the fastest players on the shore" and would seem to fit in well in a big need area for Lehigh with the top three receivers from last year lost to graduation. In the video, he shows some pretty good vision and watching him speed past defensive backs on the slant pattern make you think of the possibilities.

QB Mike Colvin (Morristown HS, NJ) Video Highlights courtesy of ESPN

The skinny: The son of a former Lehigh football player, the kid who grew up watching games at Murray Goodman is reportedly coming to the Mountain Hawks to play for the home team. Just today, Colvin announced he's coming to Lehigh after making official visits to Bethlehem and Georgetown. Reportedly, FBS schools Buffalo, Akron, Syracuse and NC State were all rumored to be sniffing around, but the report says that Colvin "was so impressed with Lehigh during his official visit last weekend that he gave a verbal commitment." Want more love? "When I got to Lehigh, I knew that was where I wanted to go," he said to the Daily Record. "They have a lot of tradition. Football is a big deal there. Academics are big. There is a balance." ESPN grades him as a very high 74, praising his tools but calling him "green".

WR/CB James Flynn (Notre Dame HS, CA) Video Highlights (#8, courtesy of YouTube)

The skinny:
Flynn was the Sierra League Offensive MVP after catching 48 passes for 1,112 yards and 19 touchdowns. The LA Times says that he "should be an outstanding fit in Lehigh's no-huddle, spread offense". Matt's father said to scout.com: "He made his choice based on the college's high academics, playing D-I football and the long tradition of Lehigh." Video highlights show a banner game against Compton - not only the touchdown catches, but the blocked punt as well.

LB Jerard Gordon (Pemberton HS, NJ)

The skinny: Team captain and leading tackler on a 3-7 Pemberton team, and also played tight end. While Pemberton struggled, the defense led by Gordon held opponents under 20 points four times in 2008.

TE/LB Jamal 'Redz' Haggins (Ben Franklin HS, PA)

The skinny: The confirmation in the Philadelphia Inquirer says it all: " With this outstanding young man, you get much more than football. He's the No. 1 senior academically and the lieutenant commander of the school's Junior ROTC program and, as football coach/athletic director Ken Geiser noted last season: "Jamel's the No. 1 leader in school. With the team. With everything. Anytime somebody wants to make sure something gets done, it's always 'Go to Jamel.' " Reportedly a player with interest from FBS schools Temple and West Virginia, as well as FCS schools Delaware, Villanova, Hofstra, Northeastern and others, it's assistant coach Gerard Wilcher that gave him the call that confirmed that he could get a need-based scholarship at Lehigh. Also was honored nationally in the National Football Foundation's "Play It Smart" program - where he gave a speech in Arlington, TX. To top it all off, he's also a Philadelphia Eagle Top Achiever, too.

RB Mike Hanhauser (Perry HS, OH) Video Highlights (junior year)

The skinny: Originally looking like a safety prospect, with a great senior year at Perry (helping vault his team to a deep playoff run and making him a 1st team all-Ohio running back. Highlights show only him on defense, but shows a real good motor.

LB/TE Jordan Jefferson (Mercersburg Academy (PA), CA)
Video Highlights (courtesy of YouTube, at Palo Alto, #13, as receiver)

The skinny: Registered 40 tackles, including 9 for loss, at linebacker 2008 and caught 31 passes for 489 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. Captain as a senior at Palo Alto High school, where it looks like he mostly played TE. Looks to have converted more to LB at Mercersburg.

DB/QB/P Gabe Johnson (Riverdale Baptist HS, MD) Video Highlights
courtesy of AOL Video

The skinny: Played in the Maryland Crab Bowl All-Star game and was part of the ESPN small-school all-State team in football. Reminscient of rising senior DB Jesse Sanchez, a converted QB who is in line to start this year in the defensive backfield for Lehigh. Looks like a good tackler out of the safety position. As a passer, Johnson uses his speed to get open, and it's easy to see him in practice lining up on the scout team to represent a spread option QB. Also kicked and punted, too.


RB Tony Kablan (Roseville Area HS, MN)
Video Highlights courtesy of YouTube

The skinny: Speedy scatback in the Ron Jean/Jamil Walker mold. Injuries limited him in his senior year, but Kablan returned for the playoffs in time to make a run in the playoffs, accounting for more of Roseville's offense (over 500 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns) during that stretch. In the playoffs, Kablan was used partially in the "wildcat formation" where the RB can take a direct snap from center. Also excelled at the triple jump at high school.

Video is grainy, but shows a nice burst at the line of scrimmage and a nice second gear.

LB/TE Sam Loughery (Pittsburgh Central Catholic HS, PA)

The skinny: WPIAL City League All-Conference defense, first team, and "standout linebacker" for a team that held 8 of 11 opponents under 14 points in 8 of 11 games last year.

QB Mason Mills (Coronado HS, CA)
Video highlights courtesy of Google Video

The skinny: Excelled at Coronado not only on the football field (72.9% completion percentage, 1st team all-small school in California) but also in the classroom with fantastic SAT numbers (1890). Message board relates a story that he played the last two games of his high school football career with four broken fingers, which (if true) shows the type of competitor he is. Video shows mobility - has real good presence when the pocket breaks down.

DB/WR Billy O'Brien (Bishop Eustace HS, NJ)

The skinny:
Almost singlehandedly beat Cinnaminson on the final play in regulation of their playoff game with a 60 yard interception return. Tallied 29 regular-season tackles at CB for the Crusaders.

P Jake Peery (Archbishop Curley, MD)
Video Highlights courtesy of YouTube

The skinny: If you watch the highlights, you'll see a kid who has a big leg for kickoffs. Was second-team all-State and played in the Maryland Crab All-Star Bowl game, where he made all three extra-points he attempted.

WR Marvin Pierre (Pine Crest HS, FL)
Video Highlights courtesy of YouTube (#11)

The skinny: Versatile 3-sport (football, basketball, track) speedster from Florida. Video shows a nice punt return and a couple of good catches. All Broward-County receiver, and with his teammates broke the 4x100 meter relay record for the school.

SS/WR Devin Pullara (Arapahoe HS, CO)

The skinny:
Tall (6'1) all-conference player at defensive back that also played lacrosse at a high level in Arapahoe, though he did line up at wideout on reverses at times and also returns kicks. Was one of the best DBs in Colorado despite being on an under .500 team. “I think Lehigh is an excellent choice for Devin,” football coach Mike Campbell told a local paper. “He is an athlete that will experience great success both on and off the field. We wish him nothing but the best in all of his future endeavors.”

OL/DL Thomas Ruley (Parkville HS, MD)
Video Highlights courtesy of YouTube (#72... not easy to view)

The skinny: Two-way lineman with a 3.8 GPA reportedly went with Lehigh after being courted earlier by FBS Maryland, Ivy League and several other CAA schools. A two-year team captain, the 6'4, 280 lb lineman was called one of "Baltimore county's two best players".

WR/DB Ryan Spadola (Freehold Township HS, NJ) Video Highlights courtesy of ESPN

The skinny: As Cintron is a speedster, the 6'3 181 lb Spadola is seen as a "red zone and possession receiver," according to the video on ESPN's recruiting site. ESPN also calls him a "hard worker" with "excellent hands", and my watch of the video shows a nice second gear. "I didn't get any college offers for track," he told the Asbury Park Press. "Lehigh kept talking to me. They are one of the top eight business schools in the nation and I will major in business."

DL/OL Lex Utt (Urbana HS, MD) Video Highlights courtesy of YouTube (#75)

The skinny: 6'4, 265 lb who also played in the Crab Bowl All-Star game in Maryland. Video highlight reel very, very hard to see, but you can see a DL that gets some decent push to the quarterback and someone who played center pretty well at the high school level. Also played basketball.

DL/TE Anthony Verderame (Bayard-Rustin HS, PA)

The skinny: Team leader and one of the key pieces in the emergence of the Bayard-Rustin's fledgling three-year old football program. His coach told the Philadelphia Inquirer that "He has a nonstop motor and great speed. He just loves playing football." Local press was enthralled with Golden Knight's strong, physical play throughout the season and the playoffs. Along with fellow recruit Zach Barket, he was a Maxwell Award recipient (or the "Min Max" awards, which award academics, athletics and community service).

OL Mike Vuono ( North Allegheny HS, PA) Video Highlights courtesy of ESPN

The skinny: Big 300 lb lineman form North Allegheny that graded out a 75 on ESPN's recruiting site: "He is a little undersized but gives tremendous effort every play. Every run snap he comes out low with a flat back. Plays with good power angles and drives his legs after the initial contact is made." ESPN seems to feel like he has very good blocking technique and with more polish can become a "complete lineman".

OL/DL Ryan Weitz (East Lake HS, FL) 2008 High School Preview courtesy of YouTube

The skinny: There's nothing "skinny" about this 6'2, 300 lb behemoth that looks an awful lot like a very good prospect for Lehigh's "O" line. First team selection for his "O" line play, and has played in several Florida all-star games. Played right tackle in HS, watch for some highlights 1:13 into the preview.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Weekend Wrapup: Home Cookin' for Grapplers and Lady Hawks

The big news for Lehigh Athletics this weekend was two big home wins for the wrestlers and women's basketball teams - and a tough, shorthanded effort at West Point by the men's basketball team that fell just short.

The wrestlers made short work of two EIWA foes on Saturday: winning seven of ten matches against Army (27-12) before drilling Franklin & Marshall (29-18) to cruise to a perfect 8-0 against EIWA foes and an amazing 22-1 overall dual record. Only one dual remains before the EIWA championships and NCAA nationals in March.

I mentioned in my preview that Lehigh would need big performances at 133 (with No. 15-ranked Matt Fisk) and at 165 (with No. 14-ranked Mike Galante) in order to beat Army, and they delivered with Fisk's pin of Michael McCarthy and Galante's major decision over Mike Gorman for bonus points. Not to be lost, though, in the weekend's bouts were two wins by freshman 157 lb Sean Bilodeau (one for bouns points against Army) and sophomore heavyweight Zach Rey (with bonus points against Franklin & Marshall).

*****

The Lady Hawks enacted revenge for their fall-from-ahead loss at West Point this year. The Lehigh women's baskebtall team kept their 12-game home winning streak intact with a 66-57 win over Army in front of more than 1,500 fans. Freshman C Alexa Williams was the story of the game, nailing 13 of 16 free throws on Valentine's day to give her 17 points and 4 rebounds on the evening. She joined sophomore G Erica Prosser (17 points) and junior G Alex Ross (17 points) with double-digits scoring, while senior G Tricia Smith got a scrappy 8 points and 8 rebounds.

The 19-6 Lady Hawks (Real Time RPI: 77) are enjoying a historic season that seems set to continue this Wednesday against struggling 5-20 Colgate (Real Time RPI: 337). Even on the road, the goal has to be for the Lady Hawks just to keep everything rolling - and to keep up the unselfish play that has gotten them here.

*****

They're already calling the Lehigh men's triple-overtime loss to Army an "epic affair", where four Mountain Hawk basketball players were on the court for more than 40 minutes. It was the wrong time for a marathon, as three Lehigh players didn't even make the trip to West Point due to injury, giving Brett Reed an eight man bench - and with the extra stanzas and three players eventually fouling out, Lehigh almost didn't have enough players to finish the game.

Junior G Dave Buchburger's 3-point shot (15 points, 11 rebounds) put Lehigh in the first overtime, but both overtime sessions were thrillingly close. Lehigh ran out to a 7 point lead in the first overtime, but Army battled back and tied it up twice. At the end of both overtime periods there were chances to win the game - but both shots were missed. Ultimately, with junior G Marquis Hall (25 points, 9 rebounds) and junior F Zahir Carrington (17 points, 10 rebounds) fouling out, Army would win the war of attrition despite some real quality play off of Lehigh's bench from freshman F Jordan Hamilton (8 points, 4 rebounds in 22 minutes).

A home game in the first round of Patriot League may be on the line this Wednesday as 14-10 Lehigh (Real Time RPI: 206) tries to enact revenge against 9-15 Colgate (Real Time RPI: 287) at Stabler Arena this weekend. It would be the perfect time to make up for their ugly 58-45 loss up in Hamilton last month: a win would but them in line for the No. 4 seed in the tournament, with an eye for the No. 3-overall seed with some luck (and some Navy losses).

The men's and women's basketball games will be on Lehghsports.com this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.
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