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Lehigh Prepares for Towson

(Photo Credit: Stephen Flood/The Express-Times)

Lehigh's success in the Patriot League has been well documented, as this year is the tenth league championship the Mountain Hawks have achieved.

When it comes to success against the champions of the most dominant FCS football in the East, however, Lehigh has enjoyed a few good battles - but have almost always lost.

Lehigh has gone on the road and beaten the champion of that conference only once, the famous 24-23 win in 1998 over Richmond.  (They then lost a heartbreaker at another opponent from that same conference the following weekend, 26-20 to the eventual FCS National Champion UMass Minutemen.)

If you think the scope of the task of going on the road and defeating the CAA champion is going to intimidate this group of Mountain Hawks, though, think again.

"People look at us as a non-scholarship program and maybe think we're a fluke; but we're looking forward to proving people wrong," junior WR Ryan Spadola told Keith Groller of the Morning Call. "People don't think we can compete with the CAA, but now we have a match with the CAA champ. It's a chance for us to show what we're all about."

While Towson has been busy with the Commander in Chief this past weekend, Lehigh has been very busy themselves preparing for the challenge this week.

It all started last week, though, with the Mountain Hawks getting a few days off to spend time on Thanksgiving with family and friends.

"We practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, and gave the kids off [for Thanksgiving]", head coach Andy Coen told me.  "Then practice Saturday, and then got back into our normal game week routine."

"Some of the guys that live farther away, went to either some teammates homes or to some of the coaches homes for dinner," junior NG Sajjad Chagani shared with me.  "Personally, I spent the day with my dad."

One of those players who traveled during the holiday was senior WR Jake Drwal, who took a trip to Massachusetts to spend Thanksgiving with teammate senior OL Vinny Pelligrini.

Another was senior LB Colin Newton, who told me he drove with his brother, freshman DL Tim Newton, to Virginia to spend the holiday with some relatives.

"My parents drove down there after the Lehigh/Lafayette game on Saturday, so it was nice to be able to actually be with my family over the holiday," he said.

"The one word I would use to describe it is peaceful, no stress, no pressure, nothing on the schedule and beautiful country side. So it was nice to get away and just truly relax for two days...but then I started missing football."

After the two day break, it was back to game film and preparation for Towson - much different than the preparation for Northern Iowa last year, when Lehigh had to practice on Thanksgiving morning.

"The bye was good extra time to go thru a ton of film," Coen told me, while also mentioning that he also used some time to get started on recruiting as well.

"Our schedule has been pretty similar to a normal season game: breaking down film, a pretty regular practice schedule and of course lots of time in the weight room," Chagani told me.  "However, their is a lot more energy with everything we do; you can tell that everyone is really excited to be here and will do everything to keep going."

"We have been watching a lot of film and getting some extra weight room sessions in," Drwal added.  "We were able to practice almost every day."

Despite all the hard work the Mountain Hawks players and coaches are putting in, one doesn't get the impression that the players are intimidated by the challenge of playing the CAA champions.

"We all have a drive to win," Spadola said in the Morning Call article. "We all have the same goals in mind. We just have to go out and play like we can and we should do well."

"They are a fast athletic team who is opportunistic and likes to run the ball at you," Drwal said. "They are a confident group and it will be a challenge."

"Personally, I really do not get into the other team that much," a confident Colin Newton shared with me.  "I know my key reads and the other teams tendencies, but other than that I just go out and play my ball against a faceless opponent."

"They are a hardworking team and they are defiantly going to hit us with everything they have got," Sajjad added.

One thing is for sure: Lehigh is not going to be outworked in this game on Saturday.  That much is very clear.

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