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"The Rivalry"

"The Rivalry" is more than just a Lehigh Valley game that is sold out.

For those of you that are going to be attending one of the telecast parties from all around the country, those of you who are going to be catching "The Rivalry" on Channel 69 or on LehighSports.Com, those of you who will be seeing it for the first time in person, or those of you who are grizzled veterans approaching the coveted "50 Game Club", before trying to tackle the emotional side of things it's helpful to get your mind around the numbers of times Lehigh and "that school from Easton" have played each other over the years.

The raw numbers about "The Rivalry" are only a Wikipedia click away.

No two football teams have faced each other as often as Lehigh and Lafayette have. They've met each other 142 times, with the 143rd meeting occurring in a sold-out Murray Goodman stadium this Saturday. Other rivalries pale in comparison: Harvard/Yale (a mere 123 meetings), Army/Navy (a paltry 107 meetings), Montana State/Montana (merely 106 "Brawls"), Richmond/William & Mary (only 116 scuffles), or even Ohio State/Michigan (the baby of the bunch with 103 tussles).

Lehigh and Lafayette started their rivalry in 1884. To give some perspective, the president at that time was an ailing Chester Arthur, who was ending his term as the 21 president of the United States as he was suffering from Bright's Disease, a kidney disease. A couple of weeks before the first-ever meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette, Grover Cleveland defeated James Blaine in a presidential campaign that was filled with mud-slinging.

The first game occurred only one year after football rules were standardized, and was won 50 to 0 by Lafayette over a team that had been playing for three years while Lehigh had formed their first football team that year for the expressed reason of playing Lafayette. (That year, they would go 0-4, losing twice to Lafayette.) The New York Times described the game: "The first inning was very interesting, as Lehigh frequently got the ball dangerously near Lafayette's goal line, but each time was beaten back, the point being made by the home team." A hundred games later, in the New York Times, it was recounted that t Lehigh fan wrote: "We did not win... but we did give Lafayette the worst lickin' she ever had and many, many a sore head went back to Easton that night."

Lehigh and Lafayette have faced each other every year since 1896. That year, Lehigh refused to play Lafayette over a dispute about the eligibility of their best player, Charles "Babe" Rinehart. Rinehart was a hall-of-fame lineman on Lafayette's national-champion 1896 team, while the team also featured halfback George "Rose" Barclay, who is widely credited for inventing the football helmet so teams like Lehigh wouldn't make his ears look like cauliflowers.

Since 1902, Lehigh and Lafayette started the tradition of playing only one game per year, only a year before the Wright Brothers took their historic flight at Kitty Hawk and six years before the first Model "T" would come off the assembly lines in Detroit, Michigan. The teams and fans used to travel by train from Bethlehem to Easton to play and watch the games, making their proximity a big bonus.

"The Rivalry" has thrilled Lehigh and Lafayette fans alike with great individual performances, classic games, and strange stories. The 1961 game featured a Lambert Cup-winning Lehigh team who had a game-winning field goal in the final minute booted by Andy Larko's first successful FG attempt (that hit the crossbar AND the post) in a thrilling 17-14 victory. In 1977, "Rieker-to-Kreider" led the way to a 35-17 victory over Lafayette on the way to Lehigh's Division II championship. In 1987, the last-ever game was played at Taylor Stadium as the fans started tearing up old Taylor Stadium early in the 4th quarter. (Lehigh would win, 17-10, in one of the coldest days in Bethlehem history).

In 1988, Lafayette beat Lehigh 52-45 in a shootout featuring Lafayette QB Frank Baur (who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated's national college preview that year). 1994 was Lafayette RB Erik Marsh's swan song as he rewrote the Leopard record books as they crushed Lehigh 54-20. In 1995, Lehigh fans at Goodman saw a thrilling 37-30 OT victory with WR Brian Klingerman catching the game-winning pass with one hand in the corner of the end zone.

1997 saw RB Rabih Abdullah's 4 touchdowns, 2 rushing and 2 receiving, for a 43-31 come-from-behind victory over the Leopards that set the tone for the big undefeated regular season in 1998. (Lehigh would crush Lafayette that year 31-7.) There's also 2003, where Lehigh RB Jermaine Pugh had 265 all-purpose yards, including a big punt return for a TD, in a 30-10 victory. It's the last time Lehigh has ended the regular season with a victory, and the last win by Lehigh in "The Rivalry".

Overall, Lafayette leads Lehigh 75-62-5, and most importantly for Lehigh fans the hated Leopards have won the last three meetings in the series: 2004, 2005, and 2006. If Lehigh falls to Lafayette in this game, it will be the first time since 1950 that a graduating class hasn't enjoyed a win over Lafayette.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Enjoy the 'look backs'! However, according to Donchez and Davidson's 'bible' on the The Game, the disputed eligibility was regarding George Barclay and not "Babe" Rhinehart (p.18, The Legends of Lehigh-Lafayette). Barclay, allegedy, played professional baseball in the summer. One that sticks out in my mind is 1975 when the goal posts came down at halftime while the Marching 97 were performing!

-Ngineer
Anonymous said…
Don't forget about the fun when they decided to NOT employ the wood goalposts. The police surrounded the goalposts and maced the crowd. Story has it the wind was blowing just right and then-president Pete Likens got hit with the mace.

GO ENGINEERS!
Anonymous said…
Turkey Trot definitely goes further back. I ran it in 1987 for my freshman hall. It certainly precedes that because I remember some reminiscing about the old days when you would get a beer at most of the fraternities on the way and back down during the race.
Anonymous said…
I first enrolled in '73, and the Trot was already a big deal. The winner in those days was just over 16 minutes.

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