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Lehigh 34, Princeton 22, Final

It looked like a trap game.  It felt like a trap game.  And when Lehigh's offense came up empty in its first three drives, it felt like it was going to be a dogfight all the way.

But when Lehigh fans asked their defense to carry them through the early part of this game, they rose to the call.

A fantastic defensive effort, which slowed down a frantic Princeton attack for four quarters, routinely forced the Tigers to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.  And when the dust settled - and the Lehigh offense got things together - Lehigh escaped Princeton with a double-digit win.  (more)

Sporting brown pants for the first time, Lehigh's offense, which had seemed like an unstoppable truck the first two weeks, seemed to hit a ditch in the first quarter in Princeton.

Two three-and-outs, and a drive that ended up getting stuck deep in their own territory, made part of the Lehigh contingent start to shift uncomfortably in their seats.

“Princeton threw a whole new scheme at us so it took us a quarter to figure out what we were doing," junior WR Ryan Spadola said in the post-game press conference.

With the offense sputtering, enter the Lehigh defense.

With junior CB Gabe Johnson and junior LB Sam Loughery leading the way with a bunch of key stops, they would allow only one field goal to Princeton PK Patrick Jacob in their first three drives.

That would allow the offense to get their motor running, and take a crucial lead.

Senior QB Chris Lum, after his ineffective first three series, would find Spadola deep behind the defense for a 49 yard TD strike - and just like that, despite dominating the Mountain Hawks in the first quarter, Princeton found themselves behind 7-3.

"Once we got things figured out the coaches made adjustments we opened up and took advantage of their weak spots and made plays,” Spadola said.

Princeton would try to get back into the game on the very next series, with QB Tommy Wornham managing to pull off a beautiful pass to RB Akili Sharp that looked uncannily like a Princeton backdoor pass.

Somewhere, former Lehigh basketball coach Pete Caril must have been smiling as Sharp rumbled for a 44 yard gain.

But it was Johnson, who caught up with Sharp, and forced him out of bounds, that might have had the last laugh.

By preventing the touchdown, and with senior LB Mike Groome punishing Tigers on almost every play afterwards, Princeton would again have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, and Lehigh still held the lead 7-6.

With the lead and the clock running down in the first half, the Lehigh offense would continue to attack.

Lum would go 4-for-4, including some timely runs from junior RB Zach Barket, when with 30 seconds in the half he would find a streaking Spadola - who who work around a beautiful block downfield by sophomore FB Sean Farrell to deliver his second touchdown reception of the evening.

But a muffed long snap on the extra point would keep it a seven-point game at halftime - and be symbolic of some special teams woes for the Mountain Hawks as well.

Lehigh did their best to run away with this game early in the third quarter.

After riding a beautiful three-and-out, with 295 lb junior NG Sajjad Chagani showing some accelleration in sacking Wornham on first down, it would take Lum and Spadola all of one play to add another touchdown.

Finding Spadola sliding behind the defense yet again, Lum threw a beautiful soft pass to where only Ryan could get it - and Spadola had only green in front of him as he sped into the end zone with his third TD on the evening.

“Early in the first half he caught a couple,” said coach Andy Coen of his star receiver. “Princeton was trying to play both the run and the pass on an early down but we got Ryan behind them twice. We softened them up a bit and Ryan was able to make some great catches."

Princeton would threaten again - with their fast-break offense that is designed to put a lot of pressure on a defense - but Groome and junior LB Sam Loughery, who would end with 12 and 14 tackles, respectively,  would keep stuffing the Princeton attack, only allowing Jacob's third field goal on the evening to end the third quarter with a 20-9 lead.

But the game would tighten up late, thanks to two hedy special teams plays by the TIgers.

After Lum would connect for yet another TD pass, a loft to a falling-down Farrell in the right corner of the end zone, WR Ivan Charbonneau would accelerate through the Lehigh line and use his pure speed to zip down the right sideline, keeping the deficit at 11, 27-16.

It would be the second straight week that a kick was returned against Lehigh for a score.

And when Princeton would successfully execute an onsides kick on the next kickoff, some traces of worry started to appear amongst Lehigh fans.

When Princeton RB Chuck DiBilio would take a Wornham shovel pass and get the Tigers' first offensive touchdown of the game, all of the sudden the scoreboard read only a five point deficit for Princeton - and all the momentum wearing orange and balck.

Enter in Barket, Lehigh's offensive line, and sophomore RB Keith Sherman.

With "Man Beast" Barket apparently dislocating his arm during the game, he'd still find a way to convert a huge 4th-and-1 with a 7 yard gain, moving the sticks, draining Princeton's momentum, keeping Lehigh's drive alive, and ticking away precious time.

After a heady play where Lum gained 9 yards on a scramble - sliding in bounds, ticking away more time - it would be Sherman, with two giant runs, getting into the end zone to put the game away.

"This was really my first game since coming back from my injury," Sherman said. "I played at Lawrence High School, which is like five minutes away from here. It was great to come back and get back in the end zone."

The final score will read a double-digit Lehigh victory, but the truth is that this was a gut-check win that was hardly an easy time for the Mountain Hawks.  While there's lots to clean up - special teams were anything but - it took a lot of different dimensions for Lehigh to win this game.

It required big scoring plays, big defensive stops, and power football at the end to put it away.  It was a win with different layers. 

This one was impressive.


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